With mid-term elections just around the corner, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a stern warning to political campaigns and calling services regarding their obligation to comply with the TCPA and stating that the Commission “will not hesitate to act to protect consumer privacy and their freedom from the nuisance of unwanted calls.” The Enforcement Advisory reminded potential political callers that they may be liable for forfeiture penalties of up to $16,000 per violation of the rules.
The Advisory noted that pre-recorded or auto-dialed calls to most residential and business landlines generally are permitted without the prior express consent of the recipient as long as the caller adheres to certain identification requirements. However, the “broad prohibition” on pre-recorded and auto-dialed calls to cell phones extends to political calls, including those sent by nonprofit/political organizations. The Advisory reminds callers that if they make calls to cell phones or other mobile devices, “they have the burden of proof to show that they obtained [prior express] consent” of the recipient. Regardless of whether a call is placed to a land line or cell phone, the party placing the calls must adhere to certain identification requirements, including stating the name of the party responsible for initiating the call and providing a phone number for that party.
Statements such as this Advisory serve as a reminder of the perils and pitfalls of outbound calling or texting in today’s TCPA environment. Political campaigns, healthcare services, debt collection efforts and mass marketing campaigns all could fall within the scope of the TCPA and its potential liability. Individuals and entities making calls or texts subject to the TCPA should take note and be aware that the FCC is monitoring these issues closely.