CUNA Weighs-in on TCPA Modernization Need, TRACED Act Passes Senate Committee

As Congress considers the budget for the Federal Communications Commission, it is imperative Congress encourage the agency to modernize implementing regulations for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), CUNA wrote Wednesday. CUNA sent its letter to the House Appropriations sub-committee on financial services and general government for its hearing on the FCC’s budget for the upcoming year.

A July 2015 FCC order on the TCPA has created uncertainty about how credit unions can contact members with important account updates due to its treatment of mobile phones and automated dialing systems, among other things. This comes as financial regulators encourage financial institutions to use technology to ensure consumers have up-to-date information.

“The Federal Communications Commission’s implementing rules require prior express consent to make informational calls to cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, and credit union risks potentially ruinous class-action litigation if for some reason consent has not been obtained or documented,” the letter reads. “The different treatment of informational calls to cell phones and landlines is antiquated and unfair and fails to reflect how the vast majority of consumers communicate today.”

The letter also notes that most voice calls and text messages are free under current wireless plans, and trends indicates more Americans are turning away from landlines in favor of cellular phones.

“These trends suggest that the rationale for the FCC’s existing interpretation of the TCPA and implementing regulations are not only outdated, but also harmful to both consumers and the credit unions that serve them,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, we urge Congress to hold the FCC accountable for its failure to modernize the TCPA and reiterate the need for the Commission to undertake rulemaking efforts that are line with modern technological practices.”

CUNA Chief Advocacy Officer Ryan Donovan wrote to all 535 Congressional offices last week detailing the differences between today’s communications landscape and that of 1991, when the TCPA was enacted.

In a related development, the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday reported favorably a bill that would enhance the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) enforcement authority over TCPA violations and require voice service providers to authenticate and block illegal robocalls.

The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence or TRACED00 Act (S. 151) now moves to the full Senate for consideration. The measure currently has 31 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who added his name Wednesday.