7 trade associations send petition to FCC about TCPA exception during COVID-19


Financial-services providers want to reach their customers to inform them about products and programs that can be beneficial during the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re asking for help from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clear a regulatory path.

This week, seven industry trade associations compiled a 23-page petition to the FCC requesting an immediate ruling, clarification or waiver regarding parts of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The crux of their petition stemmed from the use of the regulator’s Emergency Purposes Exception.

The petition explained an exception could allow phone calls and text messages placed by banks, credit unions, and other customer-facing financial services providers using an automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded or artificial voice on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic are “call(s) made for emergency purposes,” and could be placed without the consent of the called party.

The petition emphasized that companies would use this exception to:

— Offer payment deferrals, fee waivers, extension of repayment terms, or other delays in payment, modification or forbearance on mortgage payments or other loans

— Advise consumers of branch closings, service limitations, reduced hours, or the availability of remote banking or other remote access options

— Warn consumers of potential fraud on the consumer’s account

— Make consumers aware of programs, relief and resources offered by the institution in response to the pandemic

The associations stressed the calls they seek to place under the Emergency Purposes Exception are solely informational calls made in good faith to assist consumers and do not include calls that contain advertising or telemarketing or seek to collect payment on a debt.

The associations also reminded the FCC that on March 20, the commission confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an emergency under the TCPA.

Included in the effort were:

— American Bankers Association (ABA)
— American Financial Services Association (AFSA)
— Consumer Bankers Association (CBA)
— Credit Union National Association (CUNA)
— Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)
— Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
— National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU)

“These time-sensitive calls must be placed using automated means. Manual dialing does not achieve timely notification of consumers,” the associations said in the petition. “The calls that banks, credit unions, and other customer-facing financial institutions seek to place on matters related to the pandemic are intended to protect or support the financial health or safety of consumers.

“Constructive engagement with consumers is best achieved by proactive outreach communication by the institution through phone calls and text messages,” they continued.

“The associations urge the commission to ensure that these communications may be freely made by confirming that calls and text messages placed by financial institutions related to COVID-19 are calls made for emergency purposes, or by granting a temporary waiver of the commission’s definition of ‘emergency purposes,’ adopted through regulation, to allow these calls related to this national emergency,” the associations went on to say.

The entire petition can be reviewed on this website.

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