WASHINGTON (6/24/15)--The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a proposal that would protect consumers against unwarranted robocalls and spam texts, and affirm their rights to control the calls they receive. Certain financial fraud and healthcare alerts will be the exception.
The provisions are part of a package of declaratory rulings responding to petitions seeking clarification on how the commission interprets the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), FCC said. TCPA requires prior express consent for non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded or artificial voice calls to wireless phone numbers as well as prerecorded telemarking calls to residential wireline numbers.
Free calls or texts to alert consumers about possible fraud on their banking accounts or remind them of important medication refills, among other financial alerts or healthcare calls, are allowed without prior consent. However, the exemption does not allow other types of financial or healthcare calls such as marketing or debt collection calls. Consumers have the right to opt out of these permitted calls and texts at any time, FCC said.
The rulings specify that:
The rulings affirmed the act’s legal definition of an “autodialer” as any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. The definition, said FCC, ensures that robocallers cannot skirt consumer consent requirements through changes in calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers.
The commission also reaffirmed that consumers are entitled to the same consent-based protections for texts as they are for voice calls to wireless numbers.
The rulings do not change the Do-Not-Call Registry, which restricts unwanted telemarketing calls but are intended to build on the registry’s effectiveness by closing loopholes and ensuring consumers are fully protected from unwanted calls, including those not covered by the registry.
The FCC said it received more than 215,000 complaints in 2014 about unwanted calls--the largest category of complaints received.