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FCC Intends to Tighten Telephone Consumer Protection Act

If you’re worried about unwanted calls or text messages to your mobile device or landline, then the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) proposed rule-change to the Telephone Consumer Protection ACT (TCPA) is something to look forward to. Characterizing it as the FCC’s greatest advance in consumer protection since the do-not-call registry of 2003, the agency’s goal is to clarify how it intends to enforce the TCPA, especially for mobile devices. Congress passed the TCPA in 1991, back when cell phones were as big as cinder blocks. The act limits how businesses can intrude on households and other businesses via telecommunication devices. Violations are punishable by statutory penalties, usually $500 per violation.

The FCC’s proposed action, which is based on more than two dozen petitions, seeks to clarify how the TCPA will work under certain situations. One, consumers would be able to put a stop robocalls, spam text messages, and telemarketing calls “in any reasonable way at any time.” Two, consumers who obtain new phone numbers may require telemarketers stop contacting them when the number’s previous owner permitted such calls. Apparently, there was a loophole that allowed telemarketers to keep calling a number even after it had been assigned to a new owner. Three, businesses would be allowed to mass-contact consumers for “urgent” reasons; notably, bank account fraud warnings and medication refill reminders—certainly not debt collections.

Most interestingly for debtors, though, the FCC wants to define “autodialers.” Going forward, the agency’s definition will be, “any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers.” The FCC wants to ensure that any developments in autodialing technology are covered by the law. The reason this is important is that the TCPA as it’s currently interpreted debt collectors from using autodialers in two specific circumstances: calling a debtor’s cell phone or a number that does not belong to the debtor. The more expansive definition will help curb abusive debt collection practices. You can read more about autodialers here.

The FCC plans to implement its proposal via a “declaratory ruling” on June 18, meaning it will forgo the notice and comment period that’s required by other changes to administrative rules. You can find the FCC’s fact sheet here (pdf).

Hopefully the FCC’s new rule will further curb debt collectors by regulating advances in autodialing technology, to say nothing of its other objectives. However, if you are being hounded by a debt collector, then it’s probably better in the long run to discuss your situation with an experienced New York bankruptcy lawyer to resolve the issue than filing TCPA actions against the collector.

For answers to more questions about bankruptcy, the automatic stay, effective strategies for dealing with foreclosure, and protecting your assets in bankruptcy please feel free to contact experienced Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney Bruce Weiner for a free initial consultation.

Rosenberg, Musso & Weiner, L.L.P
26 Court St # 2211
Brooklyn, NY 11242, USA

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