Modernizing the TCPA
We have mentioned the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in prior newsletters. We’ve also discussed a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling from January 2008 concerning the issue of “express consent.” In that article we trumpeted the FCC’s conclusion that a consumer who provides a cell phone number to a creditor “reasonably evidences prior express consent by the consumer to be contacted at that number regarding the debt.”
FCC 2008 Ruling. That ruling clarified the use of an “auto-contact platform” to call a wireless number or use prerecorded message calls. In that article we suggested creditors obtain the cell phone number and, if possible, the written consent of the consumer to make calls to that number.
In a later article we alerted you that the FCC was proposing regulations that would make it onerous and burdensome for creditors to obtain “express consent.” Essentially, the FCC wanted each and every possible creditor to obtain written consent, with certain disclaimers and warnings, from every consumer in order for the creditor and any collection agency to use an auto-contact platform to place calls to the consumer. Those FCC regulations have not progressed, at least not publicly. In fact, some members of Congress submitted a resolution opposing these regulations.
Recently, an attempt was made to address these issues in Congress. On September 22, 2011, the Mobile Information Call Act of 2011 was introduced to the House of Representatives. This Act was an attempt to modernize the TCPA while keeping in mind the advances in technology and other consumer protections available. It would have made clear that “commercial calls” to wireless phones using an auto-contact platform were exempt from the TCPA’s prohibition on the placement of certain calls to cell phones. It would continue, necessarily so, the prohibition against the use of an auto-contact platform to place calls for telemarketing purposes.
The first Congressional hearings on the bill occurred on November 4, 2011. Certain consumer groups questioned the necessity of the bill during the hearing and beyond. Unfortunately, on December 14, 2011, the sponsors of the bill, succumbing to public pressure (including a letter signed by Attorneys General from 48 states), requested the committee that was considering the bill not to advance the bill. This action terminates this effort to modernize the Act.
What this shows and what this means is that, more than ever, our clients have to take the necessary steps to obtain and document consent to place calls using an auto-contact platform. Remember, anyone who places calls using an auto-contact platform is potentially covered by the TCPA. Damages related to violations of the TCPA, which was not intended to apply to anyone other than telemarketers, are potentially ruinous to businesses of any size. We have prepared some guidelines and suggested language to obtain consent that we would be happy to share with you. Please contact our office for more information.
About State Collection Service, Inc.
Since 1949, State Collection Service has provided quality collection service to countless healthcare organizations.
Through experience and innovation, State Collection Service has grown to become a tremendously credible and nationally-recognized collection agency offering services from pre-registration to bad debt. It is upon the basis of ethical behavior and a dedication to integrity that each State Collection Service employee works to uphold the company’s vision – Partnerships for a Lifetime.