FCC Chair Calls on Congress for Help Redefining ATDS, Right to Collect

The chair of the Federal Communications Commission has asked Congress to “fix” the definition of an automated telephone dialing system because the current definition may be the reason why the number of robotexts is increasing, and wants to be able to collect on the fines it assesses, according to a letter sent to a number of members of Congress who had inquired about the Commission’s fight against robocalls.

A copy of the letters can be accessed by clicking here.

Robotexts do not fit in the current definition of an ATDS because they are neither pre-recorded nor artificial voice calls, notes Jessica Rosenworcel in her letters, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act only protects consumers from robotexts if they are sent via an autodialer. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Facebook v. Duguid narrowed the definition of an ATDS and now Congress needs to expand it, she writes.

Rosenworcel also appears to not have much love for her colleagues at the Department of Justice, at least when it comes to their collection prowess. Of course, the data doesn’t make the DoJ look very good. A report back in 2019 revealed that the Justice Department had collected only $6,790 out of $200 million in fines that had been assessed.

“…when the violators refuse to pay the fines we assess, we have to hand the cases over to our colleagues at the Department of Justice and hope that DOJ has the resources available to pursue these cases in court,” she writes. “If Congress granted the Commission the authority and resources to perform this work ourselves, we could leverage the agency’s existing expertise and motivation to enforce our orders.”

This is also not the first time that Rosenworcel has asked Congress for the opportunity to collect on the fines it assesses.

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