On May 11, the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “Examining the Proposed FCC Privacy Rules.” Present at the hearing were witnesses FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen. The focal point of the hearing was the FCC’s proposed rule (which comes after its Open Internet Order released in February 2015, designed to preserve net neutrality) on broadband internet services, which is, according to proponents of the proposal, intended to ensure that consumers’ personal information is adequately protected when Internet Service Providers (ISP) collect information on consumers using their products. Read more…
On June 6, the FTC submitted a comment to the FCC on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) regarding the implementation of recent changes to provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that permit robocalls “made solely to collect a debt owed or guaranteed by the United States.” Recommending that the FCC proceed cautiously with the expansion of permissible robocalling, the FTC instructed the FCC to establish standards for the collection of government debt that are consistent with the FDCPA, Section 5 of the FTC Act, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). Specifically, the FTC’s comment advises the FCC to limit permitted robocalls to only (i) those relating to debts in default status; (ii) persons who actually owe the debts; (iii) those relating to the collection of the government debt; and (iv) collection purposes exclusively. In addition, the FTC’s comment on the NPR suggests that the FCC (i) maintain reasonable security practices over the data collected during covered robocalls; (ii) limit robocalls to the hours of 8:00 am to 9:00 pm; and (iii) require covered callers to “transmit caller ID information that includes a caller number that connects to a live agent representing the debt collector.”
On April 4, the FCC released new broadband disclosure labels for Internet services. According to the FCC, consumers submit more than 2,000 complaints annually related to surprise fees associated with consumers’ Internet service bills. Specifically designed for mobile broadband services and fixed broadband services, the newly released labels “will provide consumers with more information on service speed and reliability and greater clarity regarding the costs of broadband services, including fees and other add-on charges that may appear on their bills.”
In coordination with the FCC to provide greater transparency to consumers using broadband services, CFPB Director Cordray likened the broadband disclosure labels to the CFPB’s “know before you owe” initiative, noting that, “[c]onsumers must be able to understand the terms of the agreement, and if there are options, they need to be able to comparison shop for the best deal.”
On March 10, the FCC released a fact sheet regarding consumers’ rights in relation to broadband internet services. Significantly, the fact sheet highlights FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rule, which was recently circulated to the Commission for consideration, to ensure consumers have the tools necessary “to make informed choices about how and whether their data is used and shared by their broadband providers.” According to the fact sheet, Chairman Wheeler’s proposed rule “separates the use and sharing of information into three categories, and proposes adoption of clear guidance for both ISPs and customers about transparency, choice and security requirements for that information.” The Commission will vote on the proposal on March 31; if adopted, a period of public comment will follow the Commission’s approval.
On February 10, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, along with 23 other state attorneys general, wrote to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (Committee) urging it to pass legislation repealing a recent amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that allows debt collection robocalls to consumers’ cellphones. According to the AGs’ letter, the TCPA currently “permits citizens to be bombarded by unwanted and previously illegal robocalls to their cell phones if the calls are made pursuant to the collection of debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States.” The letter references the FCC’s efforts to slow the proliferation of robocalling and calls the recent amendment to the TCPA a “step backward in our law enforcement efforts” to protect consumers from “unwanted and unwelcome robocalls.”