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TCPA Modernization: Protecting Consumers in a Modern Economy

By Rebecca Anderson Cantrell

The Initial Intention of TCPA Has Been Lost Over Time

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted by Congress in 1991 to combat harassing, unsolicited telemarketing calls to residential lines.  Fast-forward 25 years, and now the outdated and broad-sweeping law hamstrings businesses from contacting their own customers.

First, dramatic advancements in technology have outpaced the law – for example, more Americans have cell phones now than they do landlines – and thus, consumers may be missing out on critical information related to their financial accounts.

In addition to the dramatic technological changes that have occurred since TCPA’s passage, recent interpretations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the federal government agency charged with enforcing the law, have created unintended consequences for business communications. Today, the TCPA is so broad-sweeping, legitimate calls from businesses to their customers may be subject to violation of the law.

How ETA Member Companies Are Affected

Importantly, ETA companies are not telemarketers. They are financial services companies who have a business relationship with their customers. Protecting their customers’ personal data and financial information is paramount.

However, because of lack of clarity in the TCPA, oftentimes ETA member companies are faced with an unfortunate choice of contacting their existing customers with critical, time-sensitive account information and potentially violating the TCPA, or simply forgoing communication with their customers altogether to ensure they are not found in violation of the law.

There are also many cases where federal regulations contradict themselves – under some federal laws, financial institutions are required to contact their customers under a particular set of conditions on the one hand, and on the other hand, those same conditions may violate the TCPA.

Consumers Want Information

It is important to note that just as businesses want to share this important information with their customers, customers want to receive this information, too. Consumers are demanding information about their accounts and transactions that is clear, transparent, and communicated to them in the same ways they utilize the technology. Fraud alerts, transaction confirmations and others notices should be provided in real-time via text, SMS, or in-app communications if that is how the consumer uses the service.

ETA Advocacy on TCPA

ETA is advocating for modernization of the TCPA, through both legislative and regulatory channels. The 2016 election brought in a new Administration, as well as many new faces in Congress. This changing of the guard presents an opportunity for a fresh set of eyes and ears on issues like TCPA.

Below is a list of recent efforts and upcoming ETA advocacy events for the TCPA:

  • ETA met with the new FCC staff to brief the Office of the Chairman on its member companies’ challenges with TCPA and suggestions for areas of modernization.
  • ETA signed a joint trade letter to the Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, urging their consideration of TCPA modernization.
  • ETA signed a joint trade letter to the FCC on the Petition for Rulemaking and Declaratory Ruling regarding prior express consent.
  • ETA signed two letters to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of court reform to address abuse of TCPA litigation <insert link>
  • May 4: Webinar on TCPA Modernization for ETA Members. Click here to register.
  • June 19: Save the Date – ETA Lunch ‘n Learn on Capitol Hill

Rebecca Anderson Cantrell is the Senior Manager of Government Affairs at ETA. If you are interested in participating in ETA’s advocacy efforts for TCPA, please contact Rebecca to get involved. She can be reached via email at: rcantrell@electran.org.