House Passes Another TCPA Bill

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By an overwhelming vote of 429 to 3, the House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.

As currently drafted, H.R. 3375 would clarify the definition of a “called party” as “the current subscriber or customary user of the telephone number to which the call is made, determined at the time when the call is made.” This definition would take effect on the date the reassigned numbers database becomes fully operational.

The bill would also task the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with clarifying the definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) within six months of the bill’s enactment and require the agency to modify its practice of issuing exemptions under the statute, mandating that each exemption state the classes of parties that may make the calls, the classes of parties that may be called and the number of such calls that a calling party may make to a particular called party.

Penalties and damages for violations of the TCPA would be intensified pursuant to the proposed legislation, with the FCC handed authority to seek an additional $10,000 per violation (on top of the current $16,000) where the caller can be shown to be acting willfully, for a total of $26,000 per violation. Additionally, the statute of limitations would be extended to four years.

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act now moves to the Senate, which already passed TCPA legislation earlier this year in the form of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which would require voice service providers to adopt call authentication technology and would similarly expand the authority of the FCC to levy additional civil penalties on intentional robocall violations.

Both proposals would establish interagency working groups (including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security) to study the possibilities for additional enforcement of the TCPA.

To read H.R. 3375, click here.

Why it matters: Between the passage of the TRACED Act in May by a vote of 97 to 1 and the overwhelming approval in the House for the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, lawmakers have demonstrated their enthusiasm for amending the TCPA. Legislators must now attempt to reconcile the two bills.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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