Technology

Trade Groups Raise Concerns About FCC Robocall Rules

By / Jun 3, 2019 (Oleksii Spesyvtsev/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The FCC is voting this week on rules intended to curb robocalls, but associations in several industries warn that the new regulations could squelch legitimate calls, too.

The Federal Communications Commission’s effort to take a more aggressive stance on robocalls has met with resistance from organizations in the financial, healthcare, and debt collection industries that say proposed new rules that would curtail automated nuisance or “spoof” calls might also prevent legitimate calls from reaching consumers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, at least four associations—the debt-collector trade group ACA International, the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), and the American Bankers Association—met with FCC officials to raise concerns about the rule, which would allow phone companies to actively block robocalls.

Currently, phone companies can block such calls only for customers who opt in. As USA Today notes, the proposed rules are intended to clarify what phone companies may legally do to curb robocalls.

While there is wide public support for stricter robocall policy, the trade groups warn that there are flaws in the plan.

ACA International notes in an article on its website that the proposal conflicts with efforts by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set rules for debt collection practices. Lawyers from the firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP argued that the CFPB approach, which sets limits on how often debt collectors can contact individuals, gave consumers more control and left less room for error.

“Clearly, the FCC’s proposed blocking regime could result in the blocking of many legitimate communications—such as payment reminders, debt relief programs, or other debt servicing calls from creditors, debt collectors, and loan servicers,” the post states.

Similarly, CUNA argues that the rule is too broad and doesn’t do enough to protect legitimate calls. The draft rule “proposes no mechanism for either consumers or legitimate callers to learn that calls have been blocked and fails to establish any process for callers to quickly and efficiently unblock legitimate calls,” according to CUNA’s comments to the FCC. “Accordingly, CUNA urges the FCC to revise the draft declaratory ruling to include protections for legal automated calls prior to allowing the ruling to take effect.”

It asked the commission to seek more stakeholder comments before making a decision. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal June 6.

Meanwhile, Congress is taking steps of its own to curb robocalls. The Senate passed a bill last month that would give the FCC more leverage to fine aggressive robocallers and push phone companies to implement technical standards such as STIR/SHAKEN.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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