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What You Need to Know about the FCC’s TCPA Ruling

Call us confused. But don’t call from your cell phone. Or your office phone. In fact, do you have a rotary phone? Call us from that.

Yes, that is a sarcastic response to the latest ruling from the FCC. However, that’s about the most we can (apparently) do after a July 10 ruling from the Federal Communications Commission on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The FCC’s ruling is at odds with the plain language of the TCPA, the original intent of Congress and, quite frankly, common sense.

Since that ruling, there has been a lot going on, including lawsuits that may change things. In the meantime, here is what we know, and what we want you to know:

What: The ruling states that collectors cannot use anything that can dial sequential numbers ? or anything that can be modified to dial sequential numbers to cell phones without consent.
The problem: Even cell phones and any other dialing system are capable of doing this. That means technically, only rotary phones are allowed to call cell phones without consent.

What: According to the ruling, collectors will now be subject to a “one-strike rule.” That means if you call a number and it’s the wrong person, he or she can sue you if you call again.
The problem: This is quite possibly the most outrageous part of the FCC’s ruling. In this case, one call means one attempt. What if we don’t reach anyone and can’t determine whether it is the right person or not? The danger here is if someone gives you their cell phone number and consent to call them, then changes numbers and you call the previous number, which is now assigned to a different person, that person can sue you. You may not know for months that it isn’t the right number, because there is really no way to tell for sure if that number has been assigned to another person unless they answer the phone on the first attempt and they tell you.

What: Text messages are now considered calls/contact.
The problem: Collection agencies, hospitals and other creditors sometimes use texts to communicate. Due to the one-strike rule, we may or may not know we have reached the correct person.

What: Consent revocation – Hospitals and other agencies often require people to sign TCPA consent forms allowing use of their information for later collection. According to the new ruling, a person can ask to revoke such consent at any time by any means.
The problem: “Any time by any means” is just as broad as it sounds. In theory, a consumer can call, email, send letters, maybe even send Morse code to anywhere in your organization or at your agencies office and ask not to be called, revoking consent. Maybe that receptionist doesn’t know whom to give the message and the collector never receives it.

What: Cell phone carriers are allowed to develop call-blocking technology, allowing people to block it a call before it ever reaches you.
The problem: Collectors must at least be allowed to try to collect debts. With call blocking, we are now down only to the ability of sending printed letters to debtors/patients who are blocking calls.

What our Industry and PRC are doing

These changes came as a surprise to many ? and not just collection agencies. This impacts many industries, even businesses who attempt their own collections on unpaid bills or communicate about other issues, who now must adhere to these rulings.

Because things are in flux at this time, and there is an ACA filed lawsuit, PRC will continue business as usual. By that we mean we will continue to call cell phones manually (even though there is no way to be completely safe without implementing rotary dialed phones) and will are continuing to push everyone to GAIN TCPA CONSENT with your patients/customers. CONSENT IS THE ONLY SOLUTION!

We are working with our clients to improve communications so that if someone revokes consent we hear about it as soon as possible. We’ll be reaching out to you about that in the coming weeks. We have provided TCPA consent language many times over the past few years; if you need this language, please contact John Cook at jcook@prorecoveryinc.com.

Please let us know how we can assist you and whether we can answer any questions.