In response to businesses and attorneys general request for more guidance on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released guidance on June 18, 2015 regarding robocall blocking, autodialers, and recycled telephone numbers, and on July 15, 2015, the official Declaratory Ruling and Order (FCC 15-72) was published in the federal register. The FCC said that the ruling “clos[es] loopholes and strength[ens] consumer protections already on the books.” The ruling provided the following clarity under TCPA regulations:
- Green Light for ‘Do Not Disturb’ Technology: “Service providers can offer robocall-blocking technologies to consumers and implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls.”
- Empowering Consumers to Say ‘Stop’: “Consumers have the right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts in any reasonable way at any time.”
- Reassigned Numbers Aren’t Loopholes: “If a phone number has been reassigned, companies must stop calling the number after one call.”
- Third-Party Consent: “A consumer whose name is in the contacts list of an acquaintance’s phone does not consent to receive robocalls from third-party applications downloaded by the acquaintance.”
Additionally, the ruling affirmed the definition of an “autodialer” under the TCPA as “any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers.” The ruling also affirmed that text messages are afforded the same protections as telephone calls to wireless telephone numbers, and that equipment used to send Internet-to-phone text messages qualifies as an autodialer. Lastly, the ruling once again clarified that autodialed and prerecorded telephone calls and text messages to consumers from financial institutions and health care providers are exempt from TCPA regulations, but that financial and health care institutions cannot send marketing or debt collection telephone calls or text messages without prior express consent from the consumer, and consumer have a right to opt-out from permitted telephone calls and text messages at any time.