Consumer Groups Ask FCC to Reconsider Recent Ruling Exempting the Federal Government from the TCPA

The National Consumer Law Center and 50 other public interest groups filed a Petition for Reconsideration with the FCC asking it to reverse a decision that concluded that “the TCPA does not apply to calls made by or on behalf of the federal government in the conduct of official government business. . . .”  The Petition for Reconsideration was filed on July 26, 2016.

The FCC released its Declaratory Ruling on July 5, 2016, responding to several pending petitions that asked for clarification regarding the application of the TCPA to the federal government and contractors performing official government business on behalf of the federal government.  The FCC concluded that the federal government and those agents acting on its behalf are not “persons” covered by the TCPA’s restrictions on robocalls and text messages.  Specifically, the FCC concluded that legislators acting in their elected capacity (as compared to running for office) may use robocalls or send text messages to constituents to organize town halls.  The FCC also specifically approved the federal government’s ability to conduct research survey calls and social security-related calls.  With regard to government contractors, the FCC concluded that contractors would be immune from liability if (1) the call was placed with authority “validly conferred,” and (2) the contractor complied with the government’s instructions.

The Petition for Reconsideration focuses on the FCC’s conclusion as it relates to government contractors.  The Petition asserts that contractors are “persons” subject to the TCPA’s restrictions.  The Petition also asserts that consumers’ privacy interests will be harmed because the FCC’s interpretations allows government contractors to continue making robocalls and sending text messages even after consumers have attempted to “opt out” or revoke consent. 

The Declaratory Ruling is available here:  http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0706/FCC-16-72A1.pdf

The Petition for Reconsideration is available here:  http://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/energy_utility_telecom/robocalls/reconsideration-petition.pdf

 

By: David Carter