For any person with a phone, it seems like robocalls are becoming more frequent and more annoying. Despite the creation of the “No-Call” lists offered by many states, these calls have persisted. In response to this increase in calls, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), through its Chairman Ajit Pai, has recently announced that ending illegal use of robocalls is a priority of the FCC.
In March 2018, Ajit made an announcement that the FCC issued over $200 million in fines for these harassing calls made in the previous year. The problem is these phone calls have continued to happen regardless of these fines. In fact, according to the screening service, YouMail, approximately 3.4 billion automated calls were made in April 2018, which was up 900 million per month compared to the prior year.
In November 2017, the FCC issued new regulations which allowed phone companies to block calls from invalid numbers or to show evidence of what is referred to as “spoofing.” Spoofing involves the caller tricking caller ID into hiding his or her identity. The FCC has also issued a proposal in March 2018 which will create a database of reassigned numbers so that business do not continue to call the wrong people.
Currently, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulates robocalls. The law dictates that autodialers must have the prior consent of consumers to contact them, and that consumers have the right to officially opt out of the robocalls. If a company continues to make calls despite the consumer opting out, they are doing this illegally.
Not all robocalls are illegal. Some can be used as a way to remind the caller about an upcoming appointment, flight cancellation or emergency notification. Also, sometimes these calls are also a way to try to collect on a valid debt. The problem becomes when the calls become excessive or even harassing.
The FCC has recently fined a Miami man, Adrian Abramovich, $120 million for 96 million robocalls he was accused of making in one month. The FCC has been accused of sending mixed signals when these robocalls come from “legitimate” businesses.
Student loan company, Navient, has received 599 “communication tactics” complaints that were submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). One of the complaints stated that the company called one person more than 12 times a day, including contacting the individual’s past coworkers, friends and family. The complaint also stated that the company called the same number 14 times in a 30-minute time period.
In response, Navient, along with other businesses, have petitioned the FCC to allow them to be exempted from the number of calls they can make to a consumer. These petitions are currently pending. These companies argue that if an existing relationship is already there, then the consent requirements should not be as strict. Further, they say that the exemption should apply to cellphones, as well as landlines.
In March 2018, a federal appeals court rolled back a decision made under the FCC during the Obama administration which prohibited debt collectors from using auto dialers to reach cell phone numbers. In that past decision, the definition of an “auto dialer” was broadened. However, the recent legal decision ruled that the definition given was too broad. Now experts are waiting to see how this narrower definition will affect current regulations. It is also now up to the FCC to write a new definition if they wish to clarify what exactly an auto dialer is under the law. If the FCC chooses to make the definition narrower, experts worry that this will leave consumers not protected from excessive and unwanted robocalls.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.