The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took action today to implement elements of Section 3 of the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, changing its existing Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules without seeking further public comment.
The rule changes, directed in the TRACED Act, address several enforcement-related provisions, strengthening the agency’s hand in combating illegal robocalls.
First, before the TRACED Act, the FCC had to warn robocallers that did not otherwise fall within its jurisdiction by issuing “citations” related to their alleged TCPA violations (e.g., robocalling cell phones without prior consumer consent) before the agency could move forward with an enforcement action. Further, any fine imposed could only apply to TCPA violations committed after such a warning was issued. This warning requirement did not apply to violations for illegal spoofing, however. The TRACED Act-authorized rule changes provide that TCPA robocall violations by such entities are now treated in the same fashion – no prior citation required.
Second, before the TRACED Act, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau had either one or two years, respectively, from the day a TCPA violation took place to propose a fine. Only violations that took place within that window could be considered when calculating a proposed forfeiture against the offender. The TRACED Act increased the statute of limitations to four years within which the FCC can propose a fine for spoofing and intentional robocall violations.
Third, per the TRACED Act, the FCC’s action today also increases the maximum fines for intentional TCPA robocall violations so that the FCC may now impose a penalty of up to $10,000 per intentional unlawful robocall in addition to the forfeiture penalty amount that may otherwise be proposed under the relevant Section of the Communications Act.
The FCC acted without seeking comment on its proposed rule changes because “implementation of Section 3 entails no exercise of our administrative discretion and, therefore, notice and comment procedures are unnecessary under the ‘good cause’ exception to the Administrative Procedure Act….”
As reflected in the FCC’s Order, these rule changes will take effect 30 days after publication of the Order in the Federal Register.