Posts tagged ‘Telephone Consumer Protection Act’

Is Your Credit Union Afraid To Call Its Members?

This may seem like a ridiculous question but the ridiculous part is that existing federal law has been so mangled beyond recognition that it is a question that any credit union concerned about complying with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) should be asking itself.

The need to clarify the reach and scope of this statute is underscored in a brief submitted by CUNA on Friday in a case pending before the Supreme Court.  The case, Facebook, Inc. v. Duguid, Noah, involves an appeal by Facebook challenging the scope of the TCPA, an issue which has split courts around the country.  CUNA was one of several prominent organizations which filed briefs to the court explaining how an expansive interpretation of the TCPA does more harm than good to consumers.

As readers of this blog know, the TCPA was well intended legislation passed by Congress in the early 90s to cut down on those obnoxious dinner time conversations you get from telemarketers and those disconcerting pre-recorded pitches that are left on your cell phone in the middle of the most important meeting of your day.  The basic idea is that consumers should not be subject to a deluge of automated marketing pitches without first giving their consent.

Unfortunately, as readers of this blog also know, this well intended concept has transformed into a tripwire of litigation with boundaries that are so unclear that many credit unions simply avoid using any technology which could potentially trigger TCPA compliance concerns.  According to CUNA’s Supreme Court amicus, 76% of credit unions responding to a 2017 survey reported that it is very difficult or somewhat difficult to determine whether or not their communications are TCPA compliant.  The result, according to the survey, is that 75% of responding credit unions have curtailed the use of more efficient technology simply to avoid running afoul of the TCPA and its strict liability for penalties of $500 per violation.  In fact, American Airlines federal credit union has abandoned the use of automatic technology altogether.  This is a remarkable concession from a $5.6 billion credit union with 235,000 members.

The core of the confusion comes down to the answer to that classic School House Rock ditty “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”  Under §227 (a) an “automatic telephone dialing system” means equipment which has the capacity (A)to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B)to dial such numbers.

As succinctly explained in CUNAs brief, the court is being asked to decide whether the TCPA encompasses any device that can store and automatically dial telephone numbers, even if it does not use a random sequential generator.  If the answer is yes, then virtually any communications device this side of the iPhone triggers TCPA compliance.

September 14, 2020 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

Why This TCPA Case Matters To Your Credit Union

The Supreme Court yesterday heard a case challenging the constitutionality of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). If press reports are accurate, the justices seem as confused about the TCPA as every business and credit union that has struggled with its restrictions. It’s possible, just possible, that this case will result in giving you more flexibility to reach out to your members.

The TCPA generally prohibits businesses from calling, emailing or texting consumers using auto-dialers without first getting their permission. The statute contains an exception however for calls involving the collection of federal loans. For example, the statute doesn’t bar lenders from pestering former students with robocalls about repaying their delinquent college loans. In addition, as I have explained in many a blog, the statute not only applies to robocalls but to any call made using a system capable of making robocalls.

In Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc. the Association argues that these exceptions demonstrate that the statute violates the First Amendment since its restrictions are based on the content of the robocaller’s message. A lower court agreed but refused to strike down the entire statute. Instead, that court eliminated the exception in the statute that allows Federal debt collectors to make unsolicited phone calls. In the case before the Supreme Court, the consultants are asking the court to confirm that the statute violates the First Amendment. According to the Court watchers, most justices seem inclined to agree that the statute violates the First Amendment.

The exciting part for our purposes (yes I get excited easily) is that the Court may find that its only remedy is to strike down the statute in its entirety. This is no minor issue. The TCPA has become the single most litigated consumer protection law in the country. Its broad interpretation has exposed many a credit union to a potential class action lawsuits and made it more difficult than it should be for the industry to reach out to its members.

 

May 7, 2020 at 9:55 am 1 comment


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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