FCC Wants to Assume Your Members Don’t Want to Talk to You

May 28, 2019 at 8:38 am Leave a comment

Yesterday evening as I sat down to watch the first game of the Stanley Cup finals, I noticed that CUNA sent out a head’s up about a set of proposals from the FCC that would further complicate how you communicate with your members. Consequently, with one eye on the TV, I read this proposal from the FCC, which it issued on May 16th, and could act on as early as June 6th. While the game was much more entertaining, I must painfully admit that the proposal is much more important to your credit union, at least if you have the audacity to use this thing called the phone to reach out to your members.

First, it’s important to understand that the FCC has as its top priority facilitating the blocking of unwanted telemarketing phone calls. In fairness to the commission, the volume of complaints it receives from consumers is staggering. In 2015, the commission reaffirmed that voice service providers “may offer” consumers call blocking technology and in 2017 it again urged VSPs to more aggressively use technology to block calls which they determined were unwanted. Now the FCC is issuing a proposed declaratory ruling to provide a safe harbor under which VSPs may offer consumers programs to block calls appearing to be illegal through “call blocking programs” and blocking numbers not in a consumers list of approved contacts referred to as a white list.

There’s more tucked away here than meets the eye. First of all, as drafted, consumers would have to opt out of phone numbers that they don’t want blocked. Even assuming that consumers could be adequately informed about how to continue receiving information from legitimate sources, how will this approach be reconciled with our good friend the TCPA, under which credit unions have independent authority to reach out to members with whom they have an established business relationship?

The compliance geek in me also is concerned about how this is going to be reconciled with regulations which require financial institutions to take affirmative steps to reach out to members. For example, can you imagine how much fun it’s going to be explaining to a judge in a foreclosure suit that your credit union made repeated efforts to call a member about potential loss mitigation options but couldn’t get through to the member? In contrast, the delinquent member might legitimately have no idea that the credit union was not on hers or his list of approved contacts.

Now I am no technology expert; maybe there are legitimate ways to deal with all these issues. But what also got my attention about this proposal is that the FCC wants to act on at least parts of it on June 6th. In the immortal words of Simon and Garfunkel, “slow down, you’re moving too fast.” Let’s not get so frustrated by the deluge of telemarketing phone calls that we throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

On that note, I hope everyone had great holiday weekend. Enjoy your day.


Entry filed under: Regulatory, Technology. Tags: , , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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