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Chamber of Commerce Sues FCC Over Robocall Rules

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed suit against the FCC's decision last month to tighten robocall rules, which could change the way companies market and politicians contact their constituents.

In its petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the chamber said the decision "will accelerate abusive class action lawsuits against businesses under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)," accusing the FCC of being arbitrary, capricious and abusing its authority.

The Chamber said the FCC overstepped that authority by restricting communications to customers who gave their permission to be contacted.

Among the FCC actions the Chamber said were out of line were to define autodialer equipment such that even smartphones could fit the definition, conclude that TCPA applies to calls to numbers that have been reassigned; that the FCC is only allowing a single call to a reassigned number before triggering TCPA, and limiting the consent defense.

The FCC majority voted back in June to clarify that texts are the same as calls, including Internet-to-phone texts. Consumers have the right to revoke previous consent to robocalls at any time and for any reason. Blocking applies to numbers that have been reassigned, though the FCC is giving callers one call to find out whether it has been reassigned before being in violation. App providers will not be liable for the calls.

The vote, on declaratory rulings and an order, was a divided one, even among the Democratic majority. Commissioner Ajit Pai dissented, foreshadowing the Chamber’s arguments. He said the decision would leave consumers worse off and "opens the floodgates to more TCPA litigation against good-faith actors" and would dramatically expand the reach of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. He suggested that the change would make tablets and smart phones robodialers.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.