Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission solicited comments regarding a petition for declaratory ruling under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Specifically, the Commission seeks clarification on whether a creditor may place autodialed or prerecorded message calls to a telephone number associated with wireless service that was provided to the creditor initially as a telephone number associated with landline service. Section 64.1200(a)(1)(iii) of the Commission’s rules prohibits the initiation of “any telephone call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, to any telephone number assigned to . . . cellular telephone service. . . .” The Commission concluded that such calls to wireless numbers that are provided by the called party to a creditor in connection with an existing debt are permissible as calls made with the “prior express consent” of the called party.

The Petitioner asserts that the Commission’s ruling permits debt collection calls to a wireless telephone number only when the consumer, in that instance, provides the wireless telephone number to the creditor. The Petitioner contends that when the creditor is initially provided a “landline” telephone number, and subsequently that landline number is ported to a cellular telephone, an established business relationship, “prior express consent,” or other exemption from section 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) of the TCPA is not created. The Petitioner concludes that compliance with the TCPA requires that the consumer must have provided the creditor a telephone number assigned to a wireless service in order for calls to the wireless telephone number to be permissible. Accordingly, the Commission seeks comment for clarification of this position.

Comments are due 15 Days after the item has been published in the Federal Register, and Reply Comments are due 25 days after publication in the Federal Register. This item has not been published in the Federal Register, yet, but we can update you once it is.

Why This Matters?

This is a very interesting issue regarding the use of autodialing devices under the TCPA when a former landline phone number is ported to a wireless device. Typically, in this circumstance, a provider only has 15 days after the landline to wireless port where it can still place automatically dialed messages to consumers (without prior express consent).