In the fall of 2015, Congress quietly slipped a provision into a budget bill that directed the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to adopt implementing regulations for a proposed exemption to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Last week, a draft rule was circulated to the full FCC which aims to protect certain types of contact with consumers from potential liability.

What is the nature of the anticipated TCPA exemption?

The FCC has been tasked with adopting rules that would exempt from liability calls or texts placed to consumers through use of an autodialer made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States government. Ultimately, the FCC seeks to strike a balance between business interests and consumer protections and, to that end, is soliciting comment on the proposed rule through the notice of proposed rulemaking. As the FCC opens up the comment period, there is hope within the industry that the agency may also eventually provide safe harbor to exempt calls made solely for the purpose of collecting private debt, under similar circumstances as the FCC intends to exempt calls made for the collection of government debt. It will be important for those in the industry to maintain a watchful eye on how broadly or narrowly the FCC ultimately discharges its congressional mandate.

Protect Your Business From Autodialer-Related Liability

We have written extensively about increased regulatory interest in autodialing, as well as telemarketing calls placed to cell phones in general. While most of our blog posts have detailed the aggressive pursuit of telemarketers by class action attorneys and government regulators for alleged TCPA violations, the FCC appears poised to finally recognize certain limitations to the law’s reach. Nevertheless, in the regulatory environment that currently exists, it is imperative to have telemarketing practices and procedures examined by experienced counsel prior to embarking on any telemarketing campaign in order to avoid potentially disastrous consequences in the event that a class action plaintiff or federal regulator does bring suit for alleged telemarketing-related violations.