Speaking yesterday before the audience at ACA International’s Washington Insights Fly-In conference, Michael O’Rielly, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission, sought to differentiate between legitimate and illegal robocalls, but his remarks are being portrayed in the media as kowtowing and “knowing his audience well,” according to a published report.
O’Rielly outlined the importance of eliminating illegal robocalls while not entrapping legitimate organizations, like ACA International, he said, “in the crosshairs.”
“Repeat after me: ‘robocall’ is not a bad word,” O’Rielly said. “There are good and legal robocalls, and there are scam and illegal robocalls, and it’s the latter that are wreaking havoc on the nation’s communications networks.
“Regulators and lawmakers need to stop vilifying automated calls and be clear and precise about the problem and the actors we are addressing: in other words, the scammers, neighborhood spoofers, overseas criminals, and phone number harvesters, some of whom are not even necessarily engaged in robocalling. An overly-expansive definition of [automatic telephone dialing system] does absolutely nothing to deter or prevent these criminals. If anything, it ignores and distracts from the true menace confronting our nation.”
But the published report instead referenced how collectors are “one of the country’s most zealous users of robocalls,” which they use to “hound people in debt about paying their bills.”
Referencing a proposal circulated earlier this week by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that would give carriers and consumers more power to block robocalls, O’Rielly said he had not had time to review the proposal, but applauded efforts to give carriers more power and said the FCC is working on finishing its new rule updating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, but people need to speak out to get it done faster.
“While I am already convinced of the need to act and can help somewhat, it’s your job to convince my colleagues and agency staff to do so,” O’Rielly said. “May I humbly suggest that the advocacy of one lone industry will not be enough to truly move the needle. It will take extensive cooperation and collaboration with everyone else caught in the TCPA spider web, screaming the same message at the same fever pitch.”