Utilities Press FCC Bureau on TCPA Exemptions Recon
In April, TCPAWorld reported on the Petition For Partial Reconsideration (“Petition) filed by, among others, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider portions of its December 30, 2020 Report and Order concerning certain exemptions under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The agency has yet to act of that Petition and others that have raised similar issues.
The EEI, along with several individual California-based utilities (California Utilities), recently met telephonically with the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau) staff to urge the Commission to reconsider or correct its December 2020 ruling in three areas
Specifically, the utility participants focused on the following:
Reevaluate Limit On Prerecorded Informational Calls To Residential Lines – “Arbitrarily capping calls at just three (3) calls per consecutive 30 days will be both extremely challenging to implement and potentially very harmful to customers. The current rule would effectively force the California Utilities to distinguish how they communicate with customers based on the type of phone that they have (wireless versus residential landlines). The California Utilities explained that they do not wish for residential landline customers to receive less information, whether about rates, billing, potential disconnection, or safety issues such as planned and unplanned outages, as a result. The Commission should reevaluate the limit of three (3) calls in a consecutive 30-day period for informational calls, considering the many types of informational calls utility service customers want and expect to receive….”
No Prior Express Written Consent On Informational Calls To Landlines – “There is also no need for prior express written consent for informational calls and the California Utilities explained that they do not believe the Commission ever intended to require this level of consent. The California Utilities urged the Commission to consider issuing an erratum to ensure their customers can continue to receive important information closely related to their utility service without additional consent requirements. The California Utilities explained that they have an obligation to serve all of the customers in their service territories, but that the companies are very unlikely to obtain 100% written consents from their existing customers. As a result, some landline customers would very likely be left behind under a prior express written consent requirement as it is expected that there will always be some people that do not realize the new need to give consent.”
Reconsider Extension Of Opt-Out Requirements Currently Applicable To Telemarketing Calls – “Finally, the California Utilities asserted that the Commission does not need to extend the full opt-out and Do Not Call List requirements applicable to telemarketing calls to informational calls. Imposing the Commission’s requirements for telemarketing represents an additional and unnecessary burden on the companies’ ability to communicate with customers. The California Utilities explained that customers always have the option of removing their contact information from their accounts but, in practice, only a very small number of customers do not provide their phone numbers to their utility. Informational prerecorded calls to landlines should simply abide by the same standards that exist for wireless calls, such as a toll-free opt-out number. These measures are appropriate to protect consumers from unwanted informational calls and, by adopting such a policy, the Commission would allow parity between wireless and landline customers ensuring no customers are deprived of information regarding their utility service.”
The ex parte notice described an array of calls “that the companies make to customers that would be adversely impacted” by the December 2020 Report and Order absent reconsideration of these issues.
This Petition, and others that have raised similar issues, remain pending with the agency. The formal comment periods under the FCC’s rules have expired.