December 14, 2018

FCC Takes Important Step to Curb Abusive TCPA Litigation

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has been in the spotlight a lot in 2018. From an increased number of frivolous lawsuits, to stories of outrageous fines for minor infractions, it’s clear the TCPA desperately needs to be updated.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took an important step to curb some of the abusive litigation enabled by this outdated statute. At its December Open Meeting, the Commission unanimously ordered the creation of a comprehensive reassigned phone number database. This will enable companies to verify whether a phone number has been permanently disconnected and is eligible to be reassigned.

But more importantly, the FCC included a provision in the order that guarantees the caller will not be held liable if there is a database error, such as the omission of a disconnected number.

Even though technology and our phone habits have changed, the TCPA has stayed the same since it was enacted in 1991. The law is outdated and its broad language makes it easy for plaintiffs’ lawyers to file lawsuits. In fact, after the FCC increased the scope of the law by adopting an overly broad interpretation of autodialer in 2015, ILR research found that TCPA lawsuit filings “shot up by more than 46 percent” in the 17 month period following that order when compared to the 17 months before.

While this provision to absolve callers from responsibility over database errors is a good step, there is more work to be done by both the FCC and Congress. The TCPA badly needs clarification in its current state, and ultimately needs to be reformed to reflect technological advancements—and fast.

Until the law is updated, plaintiffs’ lawyers will keep filing frivolous lawsuits that hurt businesses of all sizes. It’s time for lawmakers to answer the call and update the TCPA.


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