A number of consumer advocacy groups have asked the Federal Communications Commission to re-think a Declaratory Ruling related to interpreting how peer-to-peer messages are defined under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Last month, the FCC ruled that a calling platform does not meet the definition of autodialer under the TCPA — whether it is used for placing calls or sending text messages — if the platform is “not capable of originating a call or sending a text without a person actively and affirmatively manually dialing each one.” The FCC was acting on a petition that was filed in 2018 by the P2P Alliance, a network that uses peer-to-peer text messaging services for schools, non-profits, and other groups.
Noting that autodialers “made it possible” for debt collectors, telemarketers, and scammers to generate more than 58 billion calls to individuals in the United States last year, the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, EPIC, Public Knowledge, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates asked the FCC to reconsider its ruling.
“The calling industry is focused intently on finding ways to evade the TCPA’s restrictions on robocalls,” the groups said in their appeal. “If the Commission were to abandon its authority to address and stop evasions, the unwanted calls that would flood consumers’ telephones would not only cause a massive number of complaints, it would also undermine the country’s telecommunications system.”
The appeal from the consumer advocates is a required step should it seek to file a lawsuit against the FCC to have a court determine whether the ruling should be reversed.
“Such an interpretation would lead to an exponential growth in unsolicited calls and text messages from both telemarketers and political campaigns,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel with the National Consumer Law Center, in a press release. “Now more than ever, as consumers face mounting pressures from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and as we’re entering the peak election season, the FCC must protect consumers from unwanted and harassing text messages rather than bowing to political pressure to allow these unwanted texts without consent.”