U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a full committee hearing yesterday titled “The Telephone Consumer Protection Act at 25: Effects on Consumers and Business.”  Witnesses at the two-hour hearing included the Attorney General of Indiana and representatives of the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform, the National Consumer Law Center, and the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management.  Chairman Thune opened the hearing with the following observations:

As a result of TCPA, a number of abusive and disruptive telemarketing practices have been significantly reduced or eliminated…. But, TCPA is also showing its age, and there are opportunities to build on its consumer benefits while also ensuring consumers fully benefit from modern communications.

Consumers should be able to take advantage of new technologies that help them avoid falling victim to unscrupulous actors and those callers who ignore “do not call” requirements….  But, our discussion today is not only about policing abusive and harassing practices and stopping bad actors.  We must also acknowledge that most businesses are trying to do the right thing and play by the rules, and we need to understand whether TCPA is inadvertently hurting the good actors and consumers.

The balance forged decades ago may now be missing the mark, and consumers may be missing the benefits of otherwise reasonable and legitimate business practices….  Ultimately, finding the right balance is essential to protecting the privacy of consumers while making sure they have reasonable access to the information they want and need, and making sure good faith business actors can reasonably assess the cost of doing business.

Although it remains to be seen whether the hearing will result in remedial legislative action, the Committee’s willingness to take up the issue is certainly a step in the right direction, and stands in stark contrast with the bill that Senator Schumer introduced last year, which would have subjected certain commercial calls to criminal penalties.

For those who were unable to attend the hearing, an archived webcast of the hearing and copies of the witnesses’ written statements are available here.