Washington (June 15, 2018) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.) today sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling on it to protect the public from unwanted robocalls and robotexts from government contractors. The FCC recently issued a Public Notice seeking comment on whether the FCC should reconsider the Broadnet et. al Declaratory Ruling, which formally exempts government contractors from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and establish consumer protections restricting federal debt collectors from robocalling or robotexting consumers. The 2015 Budget Act included a provision directing the FCC to prescribe regulations allowing callers collecting federal debt to robocall and robotext without consent the mobile phones of student loan borrowers, mortgage borrowers, veterans, farmers, taxpayers, and anyone else with debt backed by the federal government.
In their letter, the bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers urge the FCC to rescind the Broadnet et. al Declaratory Ruling and swiftly implement rules proposed in 2016 to restrict robocalls and robotexts from federal debt collectors and to take appropriate actions against any caller violating these key protections.
“The FCC has an important role in protecting the convenience and precious zone of privacy created by the TCPA,” write the lawmakers in the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “As you proceed with the Public Notice, we urge you to fulfill Congress’s intent to protect the public from unwanted robocalls and robotexts from government contractors.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
In 2016, the FCC adopted the Broadnet et al. Declaratory Ruling, which determined that federal contractors are not “persons” under the TCPA, formally exempting them from complying with the TCPA’s core consumer protections. The lawmakers strongly oppose this conclusion in the Broadnet et al. Declaratory Ruling and believe that it was Congress’s intent for the TCPA’s protections to extend to government contractors. In August of 2016, the FCC issued implementing regulations and appropriately used its authority to adopt many important consumer safeguards. Regrettably, the FCC withdrew these protections prior to their approval by the Office of Management and Budget.
In March of 2017, Senators Markey and Lee reintroduced the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act. This bill strikes the provision of the 2015 Budget Act that exempts callers collecting debt owed to or guaranteed by the federal government from key robocalling and robotexting protections. The bill also rescinds the FCC’s Broadnet et. al Declaratory Ruling, which formally exempts government contractors from the TCPA. Senators Markey and Lee also sent a letter calling on the FCC to take appropriate actions against federal debt collectors violating the TCPA.