Full Spectrum’s “Inside the TCPA” offers a deeper focus on TCPA issues and petitions pending before the FCC. Each episode tackles a single TCPA topic or petition that is in the news or affecting cases around the country. In this episode, Partner Steve Augustino and Associate Chris Laughlin discuss the FCC’s efforts to reduce the

A new report from the Wall Street Journal on FCC robocall enforcement set off a minor scrum over the effectiveness of the FCC’s TCPA efforts under Chairman Pai. The report claimed that, despite recent eye-popping enforcement actions and policy proposals aimed at curbing unwanted calls, the FCC collected only a fraction of those fines so far. Out of $208.4 million in fines issued since 2015 for violations of the FCC’s robocalling and associated telemarketing rules, the agency collected just $6,790, or less than one-hundredth of one percent. None of the over $200 million in robocall-related fines imposed under Chairman Pai’s leadership have been collected to date, including the record-setting $120 million penalty issued last year against a robocalling platform and its owner for placing over 96 million “spoofed” marketing robocalls.

This report prompted commentary from Commissioner Rosenworcel, who tweeted that these “measly efforts” were “not making a dent in this problem” and called for carriers to provide free call blocking tools to consumers. In our view, however, the report really doesn’t relate to the vigor – or alleged lack thereof – of FCC robocall enforcement efforts. Instead, the small amount of assessed fines that are actually collected starkly demonstrates the internal and external hurdles faced by the FCC, which impact all types of enforcement actions, not just robocalls. The report likely will rekindle Congressional criticism of FCC enforcement processes and calls for more systematic solutions to the problem of unwanted calls.


Continue Reading

“Yes FCC, we meet again old friends” was the message comedian John Oliver had for the FCC on his show Last Week Tonight, when he devoted nearly 20 minutes to an in-depth criticism of “robocalls” and the FCC’s approach to regulating such calls. (Oliver had previously taken aim at the FCC in multiple segments about net neutrality – which included comparing then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to a dingo – and he allegedly crashed the FCC’s comment system after encouraging his viewers to submit pro-net neutrality comments in the proceeding that led to the decision to revert back to light-touch regulation of broadband Internet access service.) He ended the March 10th segment by announcing that he was going to “autodial” each FCC Commissioner every 90 minutes with a satirical pre-recorded message urging them to take action to stop robocalls.

The irony of John Oliver making robocalls in order to protest robocalls is rather funny. But, it raises the question – are these calls legal? The fact that the calls appear to be lawful – and would be legal regardless of the action Oliver called for in the program – highlights that there is an important distinction between illegal calls and unwanted calls. In the end, Oliver’s segment demonstrates some of the problems with modern efforts to apply the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), a statute that was adopted well before the proliferation of cell phones in America, and seems to deter many legitimate calls while not sufficiently stopping scam calls.


Continue Reading

The FCC plans to take aim again at unwanted texts and robocalls at its next meeting scheduled for December 12, 2018. Unwanted robocalls and texting consistently top the list of complaints received by the FCC and that has driven much regulatory attention by the agency in recent years. Specifically, at its December meeting, the FCC intends to classify most text messaging as an “information service” to preserve service providers’ ability to block robotexts and other unsolicited messages. The FCC’s anticipated action comes after years of debate regarding the proper regulatory treatment for text messaging and could have far-reaching impacts by exempting such services from the standard “common carrier” rules applicable to most legacy telecommunications. The FCC also plans to order the creation of a reassigned numbers database that would allow robocallers and others to check in advance whether a particular number still belongs to a consumer that has agreed to receive prerecorded calls. Rounding out the major actions, the FCC released draft items that would: (1) set the stage for the next Spectrum Frontiers auction of high-band spectrum; (2) offer additional funding to rural broadband recipients of Connect America Fund money if they increase high-speed offerings; and (3) issue the FCC’s first consolidated Communications Marketplace Report, providing a comprehensive look at industry competition. The December items cover many priority Pai FCC topics and would affect service providers of all sizes while tackling longstanding consumer protection and broadband deployment issues. You will find more details on the significant December items after the jump:

Continue Reading

On July 13, 2017, the three FCC Commissioners voted in favor of a Second Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to gather feedback on using numbering information to create comprehensive list that businesses can use to identify telephone numbers that have been reassigned from a consumer that consented to receiving calls to another consumer.  It also asks whether the Commission should “consider a safe harbor from [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] violations” for robocallers who use the reassigned number resource.  This action is the latest of several TCPA rulemaking actions initiated by Chairman Pai since he assumed leadership of the FCC.  While the action is a NOI – which is a precursor to proposed rules – the action signals the importance the new Chairman has placed on reducing the number of unwanted calls consumers receive.

Continue Reading

At the FCC’s open meeting on July 13, 2017, the Commissioners voted in favor of a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on call authentication frameworks to allow telephone service providers to identify fraudulent calls.  The authentication procedures are intended to allow subscribers and carriers to know that callers are who they say they are.  Initial comments in response to the NOI are due on August 14, 2017 and replies are due on September 13, 2017.

Continue Reading

To close out his first week as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai spoke briefly at a meeting of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee on Friday, January 27, 2017 and made clear that one of his priorities will be to address “robocalls,” which are the number one source of complaints to the FCC.  However, we expect that his methods will be much different than those employed during Chairman Wheeler’s tenure.

Continue Reading

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is increasing its visibility in response to what it has repeatedly cited as its largest source of consumer complaints to the Commission: autodialed and prerecorded calls (which the FCC groups together as so-called “robocalls”).  In addition to pushing for industry-based solutions to unwanted calls to consumers through initiatives such as

On July 22, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler penned a blog post on the Commission’s website highlighting the efforts at the agency to prevent unwanted automated and prerecorded message calls restricted under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  In particular, the blog post discussed recent and upcoming rulemakings, declaratory decisions, and enforcement actions, as well as efforts to engage industry stakeholders such as telephone companies and parties that facilitate mass calling, to address what the Chairman deemed “the number one complaint the FCC receives from consumers.”  At least for the remainder of Chairman Wheeler’s tenure at the FCC, the Commission appears focused on consumer protection issues, especially with regard to so-called “robocalls.”

Continue Reading

This post was co-written by Randy Sifers.

In February, the FCC adopted several changes to its telemarketing rules, including a new requirement that telemarketers must receive express written consent to send certain autodialed or prerecorded message calls. On June 11, the FCC’s order was published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register summary is available here.

As a result, the new rules will take effect beginning July 11, 2012. As explained after the jump, some of the rules will not take effect until OMB approves the new recordkeeping requirements. Nevertheless, publication in the Federal Register starts the clock for appeals and petitions for reconsideration of the rules.


Continue Reading