The year is 2018. Advanced communications technology has enabled humanity to access the complete history of civilization, apply the world’s collective knowledge, and broadcast live from anywhere on the planet, all through a machine small enough to carry in a pocket. It’s called a “smartphone.” And yet, despite its incredible utility, this device fills its users with dread—for at any time, without warning, it could be hijacked by a mysterious, malevolent entity known only as…
This is the dark, terrible future to which we have condemned ourselves. The smartphone is no longer considered a technological marvel but, increasingly, a societal detriment. At best, we consider our phones distractions or nuisances; at worst, potential hazards to our mental and physical health. The shift is partially driven by an emerging awareness of “smartphone addiction,” but it’s also a simple consequence of keeping a phone around at all times. When anyone can reach you at any time of the day or night, perhaps a dozen daily spam and scam calls shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Okay, I’ll admit that I’m being (a little) melodramatic.
But I know I’m not the only one who’s received tons of unsolicited calls over the past few months. In fact, according to data collected by the spam call-blocking app RoboKiller, Americans received approximately 5 billion robocalls in July of 2018. That’s over 3,500 robocalls per second.
This is more than a major annoyance for those of us on the receiving end. It’s also creating a quandary for any business that may want to use an autodialer for legitimate communication and marketing purposes. Telephone Consumer Protection Act violations can lead to serious fines and legal trouble. With consumers—as well as their state and federal representatives—on the defensive against unsolicited calls and text messages, TCPA compliance is a top priority for auto dealerships, lenders, and other entities that rely on phones to do business.
Accordingly, these companies have been waiting for new action and guidance related to TCPA regulations and enforcement.
If a recent congressional Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing is any indication, however, they should expect to continue waiting.
“The commissioners from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appeared for a congressional oversight hearing today. The majority of the hearing revolved around net neutrality and the race to 5G, with the first (and very brief) mention of robocalls about an hour and a half into the hearing. As of hour two and a half, there was virtually no mention of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by the Senators; Chairman [Ajit] Pai mentioned it only briefly.”
Pai, who became (in)famous for his role in net neutrality repeal, clearly has a lot on his plate. He did state the FCC was taking a “two-pronged approach” to robocalls through regulation and enforcement, mentioning that the Commission has issued fines and released a public notice related to the issue. Beyond that, the problem—and the future of TCPA compliance in general—remains somewhat ill-defined.
It wasn’t all frustrating news.
We did get this nugget from the hearing:
“Later in the hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) brought up a piece of legislation he introduced titled Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones Act (ROBOCOP Act), which addresses the issue of robocalls. Sen. Blumenthal sought the commission’s support of the act. Commissioner Rosenworcel stated her support; the other commissioners agreed to review the Act.”
For what it’s worth, lawmakers outside of the FCC are paying attention to these issues—and they’re coming up with some pretty amazing backronyms in the process. Let’s hope you’d have more than 20 seconds to demonstrate ROBOCOP compliance.