FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced new proposed rules that strengthen the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), making it more consumer-friendly.
One of the most important potential changes is that the new rules would clarify how consumers can revoke their consent to being called.
In our practice, we tend to focus on calls made to consumers by debt collectors. In general, the law states that a debt collector (or other third party) cannot use an automated telephone dialing system to call you on your cellular phone. However, if you have consented to being called on your phone, then those calls are permissible.
So how does someone revoke consent? The law requires consumers to "opt-in" on receiving these types of calls by providing "prior express consent." The most obvious form of consent would be providing your cellular number to a creditor. Revoking consent is a bit murkier. Some courts have held that consent can be revoked orally. Some require consumers to put the revocation in writing. What about, for example, a discharge in bankruptcy? Does the discharge injunction function as a revocation of consent to be called?
The proposed rules would provide a good answer to these questions. Under the proposed rules, consumers could revoke consent in any reasonable way at any time. This would encompass both written and oral revocations.
The rule changes would also clarify the definition of "autodialer." The definition would specifically state that an autodialer is any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. The new definition would be designed to ensure that robocallers cannot avoid the law by changing calling technology design or calling from a list of numbers.
For more information on the proposed rule changes, you can read Chariman Wheeler's synopsis here. The FCC is set to rule on these changes on June 18, 2015.