news.cuna.org/articles/113014-cuna-outlines-path-to-tcpa-reg-relief-in-petition-to-fcc

CUNA outlines path to TCPA reg relief in petition to FCC

September 29, 2017

CUNA filed a petition Friday with the Federal Communications Commission regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), outlining how it can provide credit unions with regulatory relief from the onerous requirements for communicating with member-owners. In the petition, CUNA proposes two routes for providing credit unions with greater ability to communicate with consumers about information they want and need on their cell phone.

"CUNA is seeking relief today on behalf of America's credit unions and their members from an outdated TCPA statute, which has been made more obsolete for credit unions due to conflicting and confusing FCC interpretations of the statute," said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. "Credit union members are being harmed by unclear guidance about how they can receive communications such as text messages about vitally important financial information including ways they can improve and protect their own finances. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has recognized that protecting consumers includes the ability to be in timely communication with them, and the FCC should do the same."

Specifically, CUNA is requesting the FCC issue a declaratory ruling that wireless informational calls to credit union member-owners with whom the credit union has an established business relationship, or where the call or text is in fact free, be exempt from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement for autodialed and artificial or prerecorded voice calls.

Changes to the TCPA were finalized by the FCC in 2015. CUNA is concerned that these changes, in addition to a convoluted regulatory landscape from other FCC rulings and orders, are stifling the ability of credit unions to contact members with important account information, due to risks of not being in compliance with the changes.

CUNA also feels the changes do not take into account the changing ways consumers communicate, particularly the shift from landlines to cell phones.

CUNA’s two proposed ways to equalize treatment of informational messages are:

  • The FCC should adopt an established business relationship exemption for credit union informational messages to cell phones. Adopting this exemption would place cell phone calls on equal regulatory footing with similar calls made to landline phones. Eliminating the antiquated distinction between landline and wireless calls is increasingly important now that the majority of consumers just have cell phone service. CUNA believes FCC precedent gives it authority to do so; or
  • The FCC should utilize its express authority to exempt calls that are without charge to the called party. CUNA requests the commission exempt credit union informational calls and texts that are in fact free to the called party, for example, because the call is free, under the called party’s wireless plan. Although the commission has previously limited this exemption to instances where the callers provided assurances that they were capable of ensuring that calls would be free, Section 227(b)(2)(C) of the TCPA—the free to end user provision—imposes no such requirement. All this provision requires is that the call is in fact free to the consumer, not that the caller took steps to attempt to ensure the call is free.

CUNA believes adoption of these exemptions would restore the balance Congress sought to achieve between consumers’ privacy interests and the legitimate interests of businesses to communicate with consumers.

In the petition, CUNA also explains that adopting these exemptions would eliminate much of the confusion and uncertainty surrounding various conditions and exemptions established over time.

CUNA also highlights that granting the petition would align FCC policy with recent guidance from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that urges financial institutions to text consumers regarding financial information. Such guidance acknowledges that consumers benefit when “real-time information” through text alerts help protect their finances.

CUNA will host a members-only webinar at 3 p.m. (ET) Oct. 11 to discuss the FCC petition, ways credit unions can participate in the process, and hear industry attorneys explain how the statute impacts credit unions' ability to communicate with members.