Articles Posted in Federal Communications Commission

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NewsofNoteMainTo the surprise of no one, Instagram is pretty popular; Samsung puts a billion dollars into the Internet of Things; the FCC’s trying to decide if radio noise is a problem; and there’s an approach to virtual reality that won’t make you want to throw up.

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In her post “The FCC Has Written Good Contest Rules, Now You Should, Too” over at Pillsbury’s CommLawCenter blog, Lauren Lynch Flick has written a good summary—and provided a number of useful takeaways—regarding the FCC’s new Licensee-Conducted Contested Rule. While the rule focuses on broadcaster-run contests, the importance of clear language in contest guidelines and write-ups is a valuable lesson to keep in mind, regardless the medium.

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In late July, we posted our client alert titled FCC Expands Reach of Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  The Alert discusses the FCC’s July 10, 2015 long-awaited omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order. The Ruling focuses largely on providing guidance, particularly for new and emerging technologies, regarding what an automated telephone dialing system (aka ATDS or autodialer) is and when consent to use one to place a call or send a text message is required under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and its implementing regulation, 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200. All businesses should immediately reevaluate their calling and text messaging practices to ensure compliance with the new Ruling, as it is likely to escalate the continued upward trend in TCPA class action filings.

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Yesterday, we published our client advisory titled Stop Calling Me:  Can Consumers Waive the right to Revoke Consent Under the TCPA?  If you call or text your customers using an automated telephone dialing system or prerecorded messages, it might be worth a read.

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Resolving a conundrum faced by every business that has entered the world of consumer texting, the FCC has ruled that businesses are not violating the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) by sending a confirmation text to consumers who have just opted out of receiving further texts. However, the FCC did impose limitations on the content of such confirmation texts to ensure compliance with the TCPA. The threshold requirement is that the purpose of the reply text be solely to confirm to the consumer that the opt-out request has been received and will be acted on. The FCC then enumerated several additional requirements that businesses must observe when sending confirmation texts to avoid violating the TCPA. For those affected, which is pretty much every business that uses texts to communicate with the public, we have released an FCC Ruling Client Alert on Texting Opt-Outs.

To many, sending a confirmation text to a consumer who has previously opted in to receiving a company’s text messages would appear to be nothing more than good customer service and an extension of the common practice of sending a confirmatory email message when a consumer has chosen to unsubscribe from an email list. Indeed, many wireless carriers and mobile marketing and retail trade associations have adopted codes of conduct for mobile marketers that include sending confirmation texts to consumers opting out of future text messages.

However, the TCPA, among other things, makes it illegal to make a non-emergency “call” to a mobile telephone using an automatic telephone dialing system or recorded voice without the prior express consent of the recipient. The FCC’s rules and a decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit define a “call” as including text messages. As a result, many businesses have had class action lawsuits filed against them by consumers arguing that, once they send a text message opting out of receiving future texts, their prior consent has been revoked, and the business violates the TCPA by sending ANY further texts, even in reply to the consumer’s opt-out text.

Seeking to avoid facing such lawsuits and the potential for conflicting decisions from different courts, businesses sought the FCC’s intervention. After reviewing the issue, the FCC rejected the fundamental argument raised by the class action suits, noting that the FCC has never received a single complaint from a consumer about receiving a confirmatory text message. The FCC did note, however, that it had received complaints from consumers about not receiving a confirmation of their opt-out request. The Commission therefore held that when consumers consent to receiving text messages from a business, that consent includes their consent to receiving a text message confirming any later decision to opt out of receiving further text messages.

To avoid creating a loophole in the TCPA that might be exploited by a business, the FCC proceeded to set limits on confirmation texts designed to ensure that they are not really marketing messages disguised as confirmation texts. First and foremost, the implied permission to send a confirmation text message only applies where the consumer has consented to receiving the company’s text messages in the first place. Next, the confirmation text message must be sent within five minutes of receiving the consumer’s opt-out request, or the company will have to prove that a longer period of time to respond was reasonable in the circumstances. Finally, the text of the message must be truly confirmatory of the opt-out and not contain additional marketing or an effort to dissuade the consumer from opting out of future texts. You can read more about the FCC’s decision and these specific requirements in the firm’s Client Alert.

By providing clarity on the relationship between confirmation texts and the TCPA, the FCC’s ruling provides marketers and other businesses with some welcome protection from class action TCPA suits. In an accompanying statement, Commissioner Ajit Pai stated that “Hopefully, by making clear that the Act does not prohibit confirmation texts, we will end the litigation that has punished some companies for doing the right thing, as well as the threat of litigation that has deterred others from adopting a sound marketing practice.” Businesses just need to make sure they comply with the FCC’s stated requirements for confirmation texts to avail themselves of these protections.

Please see the original post on Pillsbury’s CommLaw Center blog.

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On March 21, the Entertainment Software Association filed a petition seeking a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission’s recently adopted rules that would impose certain disabilities act requirements on providers of advanced communications services (ACS) — which could include video games that allow voice or text communications during game play. The petition notes that while communications may be integrated into video games, it is not the primary purpose of the games, and therefore should be eligible as a class for waiver.  The waiver request included the following three classes of video game industry products and services: Game consoles and their peripherals; game distribution and online game services; and, game software.   (See our recent client alert: Telecom Monitor). ESA asked the FCC to rule on the petition within 90 days.

ACS includes interconnected VoIP, non-interconnected VoIP, electronic messaging service and interoperable video conferencing services, which are defined as:

  • Non-interconnected VoIP: a service that (i) enables real-time voice communications that originate from or terminate to the user’s location using Internet protocol or any successor protocol; and (ii) requires Internet protocol compatible customer premises equipment” and “does not include any service that is an interconnected VoIP service.
  • Electronic Messaging Service: “means a service that provides real-time or nearreal-time non-voice messages in text form between individuals over communications networks. This service does not include interactions that include only one individual (human to machine or machine to human communications). 
  • Interoperable Video Conferencing Services: services that provide real-time video communications, including audio, between two or more users. This service does not include video mail. The Commission has sought additional comment, pursuant to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, regarding the definition and application of “interoperable”.

If you are interested in learning more about the disabilities act requirements or would like to participate in the FCC proceeding, please contact Glenn Richards or any member of our Social Media, Entertainment & Technology Team.