Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to approve Commissioner Tom Wheeler's proposal to "close loopholes and strengthen consumer protection" relating to telemarketing and text message marketing. The changes are in the form of answers to several petitions filed by companies seeking clarification of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and related Rules.

These changes will take effect when the order is published, which is probably within the next few days. Based on Commissioner Wheeler's fact sheet, these changes were approved today:

  • Confirm that an autodialer is any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers. According to the FCC, this change will ensure that marketers cannot circumvent consumer consent requirements through changes in calling technology design or by calling from a list of numbers. (Applies to wireless.)
  • Consumers have the right to revoke their consent to receive robocalls and robotexts "in any reasonable way at any time." (Applies to wireless and landlines.)
  • Marketers cannot make more than one call to a reassigned phone number. The FCC has received complaints from consumers who inherit a phone number and then receive calls and texts that the previous owner of that phone number had consented to receive. Under the new rule, if a phone number has been reassigned, callers must stop calling the number after one call. (Applies to wireless and landlines.)
  • Carriers are now authorized to offer technologies to allow consumers to block unwanted marketing calls. (Applies to wireless and landlines.)
  • Clarifies what types of calls and texts are allowed under the exception for urgent communications. For example, free calls or texts to alert consumers to possible fraud on their bank accounts or remind them of important medication refills would be allowed. In addition, consumers would have the ability to opt out of even these permitted calls and texts. (Applies to wireless.)