TCPA Regulatory Update — A Busy FCC Continues to Implement the TRACED Act; Public Notice on Flu Vaccines During the Pandemic
Robocallers don’t sleep. Luckily, the FCC doesn’t either. The FCC has been working tirelessly to implement portions of the TRACED Act to better protect consumers against unwanted and illegal robocalls.
The FCC had planned to vote on the Second Report and Order (discussed in more detail in last month’s TCPA Digest) at its September 30 meeting, but it adopted the decision the day before. The Second Report and Order took a number of steps implementing the TRACED Act, including, among others, requiring voice service providers to either upgrade their non-IP networks to IP and implement STIR/SHAKEN, or work to develop a non-IP caller ID authentication solution; and providing a framework to file for extensions to the implementation deadline for certain categories of providers, including small voice service providers. It also established a process by which providers that make early progress on caller ID authentication implementation can obtain an exemption from the June 30, 2021 deadline, as required by the TRACED Act. Providers interested in obtaining such an exemption will file for one in December of this year. All voice service providers – not just those applying for an early implementation exemption – will also have to file a certification in an FCC database showing how they are acting to stem the origination of illegal robocalls.
The FCC also released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to implement section 8 of the TRACED Act, which directs the FCC to ensure that any exemptions the FCC grants to the robocall restrictions under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) include certain requirements. The FCC seeks comment on whether existing exceptions granted under the TCPA:
(1) cellular carrier calls to their own subscribers;
(2) non-commercial calls to a residence;
(3) commercial calls to a residence that do not constitute telemarketing;
(4) tax-exempt nonprofit organization calls to a residence;
(5) HIPAA-related calls to a residence;
(6) package delivery–related calls to a wireless number;
(7) financial institution calls to a wireless number;
(8) health care-related calls to a wireless number; and
(9) inmate calling service calls to a wireless number
already include requirements with respect to (1) the classes of parties that may make such calls; (2) the classes of parties that may be called; and (3) the number of such calls that may be made to a particular called party.
Comments and replies are due on October 26 and November 30, respectively.
Although not part of its work implementing the TRACED Act, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a request for clarification filed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) regarding previous FCC guidance that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an “emergency” under the TCPA and that consequently hospitals, health care providers, state and local health officials, and other government officials may communicate by robocall and robotext without prior express consent. NACDS asked the FCC to find that the same rules (i.e., no prior express consent is required) apply for “calls and texts related to COVID-19 vaccines, when available, as well as flu vaccines, during the pandemic.” NACDS argued that such communications fall within the emergency purposes exception because they are “‘solely informational, made necessary because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and directly related to the imminent health or safety risk arising out of the COVID-19 outbreak.’” NACDS also filed a supplementary letter to its original filing to support its request.
The comment cycle closed on the Public Notice in early October, and only one comment was filed in the proceeding, supporting the request. The FCC has not yet ruled.