Well yesterday was the comment cut off for the FCC’s NPRM and there are a TON of them.
I am still pouring through these things but I wanted to lead off with the big R.E.A.C.H. MBC comment that is going to cause a huge stir.
Before we get there–quick reminder, R.E.A.C.H. is a led buyer organization that has set firm standards on the requirements for webforms. The goal of R.E.A.C.H. is to stop the abusive practices in the lead generation industry and cut down on unwanted calls while working with regulators and wireless carriers to assure favorable treatment to those who abide the R.E.A.C.H. standards. If you want to learn more about the organization–and you do– visit reachmbc.com.
The R.E.A.C.H. comment–which you can read here REACH Comment to FCC— lays bare the abuses of the lead generation industry that have brought the Commission to the point of potentially shutting it down completely. But it also counsels against an unreasonably punitive response given the complete lack of standards that have been set by regulators to date.
Overall the R.E.A.C.H. comment requests:
- An outright rejection of the Public Knowledge proposal of destroying lead generation by requiring all leads to be provided directly to good and service providers;
- The adoption of the R.E.A.C.H. standards as the industry requirement–with a safe harbor granted to those who use it;
- A rebuke of the nation’s wireless carriers for their outrageous call blocking and labeling activity and asks the FCC to direct the carriers not to block or interfere with calls made by those who abide the lead gen standards set by the FCC.
That last piece is critically important and R.E.A.C.H. is absolutely committed to pushing the carriers to let traffic–particularly first-party traffic–flow freely so long as the call is expected by the consumer.
And this garbage of labeling calls as “spam likely” just to drive callers into pricy branded caller id solutions offered by the carriers is a plain unlawful business practice. It needs to stop… like right now.
You will find all of that, AND SO MUCH more in the R.E.A.C.H. comment–which explains the core problems in the lead generation industry with reference to the “Quantum Soup Can problem” which I guarantee will get everyone talking.
While I encourage you to read the entre thing, here are a few easily digestible nuggets from the Comment for you folks to chew on:
- “[Industry bad] conduct has been enabled—one might cynically say encouraged by an outright failure of regulators to recognize the root of the robocall problem and attempt to address it.”
- “The problem of the “Quantum Soup Can” is the driver of billions of unwanted (and needless) calls per year in this country. Yet no one in this scenario has violated the law. The reality of the situation is just as preposterous as using the metaphor of a soup can to describe it.”
- “The R.E.A.C.H. standards seek to solve every problem stemming out of the lead generation industry as it relates to unwanted phone calls. Consumers are empowered. All of the benefits of lead generation remain. And unwanted calls stop.”
- “It appears to R.E.A.C.H. members that the options presented by the Commission in the NPRM are either complete annihilation of the industry—the Public Knowledge proposal—or the slightest regulation that will change nothing— the proposed CFR edit. Less and more is required.”
- ” The Consequences of the Public Knowledge Proposal Are Truly Enormous, Unforeseeable and Potentially Catastrophic…Wiping out this entire ecosystem—a massive ecommerce infrastructure that powers the web engines and huge social media companies—would cause absolutely massive job losses.”
- “It must be stated directly—the Public Knowledge proposal would have a massive and terrible impact on [FCC DEI initiatives.] The lead generation industry is an incredibly diverse industry featuring very powerful women initiatives and groups that advance minorities. Moreover a disproportionate number of small businesses —those most likely to run lead generation websites and purchase leads as independent sales professionals—are run by minorities and women.”
- “R.E.A.C.H. members can discern no benefit to ending the use of hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are commonly used by consumers and enforced by courts. They are readily understood by website visitors.”
- “The Commission should also assist R.E.A.C.H. in assuring the nation’s wireless carriers do not improperly block these anticipated and welcomed calls—a clear violation of the Communications Act—and do not otherwise deter consumer engagement with R.E.A.C.H. members with unlawful and defamatory labeling activities.”
And then there’s this entire section:
While we’re chatting, R.E.A.C.H. submits that the wireless carriers in this nation are simply
out of control when it comes to call blocking and labeling.
The latest word is that carriers are entirely refusing to carry traffic where calls arise out of consents provided on a website. This is absurd, a plain violation of the Communications Act and “unreasonable” under the Commission’s earlier call blocking directives.
Further, callers reaching out to consumers who have submitted online forms are being labeled—thoughtlessly and reflexively—as “scam likely” or “spam” despite the lack of any reasonable basis to label the calls. Indeed there is wide industry chatter that the carriers are knowingly mislabeling callers in a bid to enroll callers into pricey “white list” and branded caller Id solutions.
Obviously intentionally mislabeling calls to drive up profits is an unlawful business practice and the wholesale blocking of legal traffic arising out of webform submissions is a serious First Amendment concern, in addition to enabling a private right of action under the Communications Act.
R.E.A.C.H. asks the Commission to advise wireless carriers not to block or label voice or SMS traffic from lead generators pursuant to webform submissions that meet the Commission’s new NPRM guidelines—whatever they end up being.
The Czar accepts your standing ovation and thank you.
And yes…Troutman Amin, LLP did this all for FREE.
Not one dollar was charged to anyone or received from any company for our work on behalf of R.E.A.C.H. We do it because we have a civic responsibility to stop unwanted robocalls, on the one hand, and prevent detrimental governmental overreach, on the other. And we are uniquely qualified to serve both missions–so we do.
Not for profit, but because it is the right thing to do. Imagine that?
I would like to thank Jenniffer Cabrera–the Countess–for her fantastic work on this comment, along with my partner Puja J. Amin–Queenie–for her much needed input and edits. You two are AMAZING!
Others deserving praise include Ed Pain of Connecting The Dots and Angela Cherrill of Tesico–who provided fantastic background information–and the remaining executive team of R.E.A.C.H, Ryan Ramsey of Amerilife, Gayla Huber of InteriShield and the powerful (and pleasant) Brien Jones-Landry of Sinch.
Also want to thank the BRAVE and POWERFUL brands that signed on directly to the Comment with R.E.A.C.H.
True true industry leadership on display right there.
Love all of you. Thank you for the support.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or thoughts. Remember reply comments are due June 6, 2023!
In the meantime, we will be breaking down many additional comments here this week, so stay tuned!
In the Auto Dealership industry here. Our sales departments follow all rules and regulations when it comes to TSR and FTSA, etc. However, even so we are punished by carriers by constantly blocking our calls or labeling us as “spam likely”. Our CRM provider has to constantly order new numbers and fight with carriers. This has to stop!