Federal Communications Commission.
In this document, we revise the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) rules, and adopt new rules to provide consumers with several options for avoiding unwanted telephone solicitations. These new rules establish a national do-not-call registry, set a maximum rate on the number of abandoned calls, require telemarketers to transmit caller ID information, and modify the Commission's unsolicited facsimile advertising requirements.
Effective August 25, 2003, except for § 64.1200(c)(2), which contains the national do-not-call rules, and will become effective on October 1, 2003; § 64.1200(a)(5) and (a)(6), which contain the call abandonment rules, and will become effective on October 1, 2003; § 64.1601(e), which contains the caller ID rules, and will become effective on January 29, 2004; and §§ 64.1200(a)(3)(i), (d)(1), (d)(3), (d)(6), (f)(3), and (g)(1), which contain information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) that have not been approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The Commission will publish a document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date for these sections. Written comments by the public on the new and modified information collections are due September 23, 2003.
In addition to filing comments with the Office of the Secretary, a copy of comments on the information collection(s) contained herein should be submitted to Leslie Smith, Federal Communications Commission, Room 1-A804, 445 12th Street SW., Washington, DC 20554, or via the Internet to Leslie.Smith@fcc.gov.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Erica H. McMahon or Richard D. Smith at 202-418-2512, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau. For additional information concerning the information collection(s) contained in this document, contact Les Smith at 202-418-0217 or via the Internet at Leslie.Smith@fcc.gov.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
This is a summary of the Commission's Report and Order (Order) in CG Docket No. 02-278, FCC 03-153, adopted on June 26, 2003 and released July 3, 2003. The full text of this document is available at the Commission's Web site (http://www.fcc.gov) on the Electronic Comment Filing System and for public inspection and copying during regular business hours in the FCC Reference Center, Room CY-A257, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554. The complete text may be purchased from the Commission's copy contractor, Qualex International, 445 12th Street, SW., Room CY-B402, Washington, DC 20554. To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an email to email@example.com or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0531 (voice) or (202) 418-7365 (tty).
Paperwork Reduction Act: The Report and Order contains either new and/or modified information collections. The Commission, as part of its continuing effort to reduce paperwork burdens, invites the general public to comment on the information collection(s) contained in this Report and Order as required by the PRA. Public and agency comments are due September 23, 2003.
1. We revise the TCPA rules and adopt new rules to provide consumers with several options for avoiding unwanted telephone solicitations. Specifically, we establish with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a national do-not-call registry for consumers who wish to avoid unwanted telemarketing calls. The national do-not-call registry will supplement the current company-specific do-not-call rules for those consumers who wish to continue requesting that particular companies not call them. To address the more prevalent use of predictive dialers, we have determined that a telemarketer may abandon no more than three percent of calls answered by a person and must deliver a prerecorded identification message when abandoning a call. The new rules will also require all companies conducting telemarketing to transmit caller identification (caller ID) information, when available, and prohibit them from blocking such information. The Commission has revised its earlier determination that an established business relationship constitutes express invitation or permission to receive an unsolicited fax, and we have clarified when fax broadcasters are liable for the transmission of unlawful facsimile advertisements.
National Do-Not-Call List
2. Section 227. The TCPA requires the Commission to protect residential telephone subscribers' privacy rights to avoid receiving telephone solicitations to which they object. In so doing, 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1) directs the Commission to “compare and evaluate alternative methods and procedures” including the use of electronic databases and other alternatives in protecting such privacy rights. Pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(3), the Commission “may require the establishment and operation of a single national database to compile a list of telephone numbers of residential subscribers who object to receiving telephone solicitations, and to make that compiled list and parts thereof available for purchase.” If the Commission determines that adoption of a national database is warranted, 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(3) enumerates a number of specific statutory requirements that must be satisfied. Additionally, 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(4) requires the Commission to consider the different needs of telemarketers operating on a local or regional basis and small businesses. In addition to our general authority over interstate communications, section 2(b) of the Communications Act specifically provides the Commission with the authority to apply section 227 to intrastate communications.
3. We conclude that the record compiled in this proceeding supports the establishment of a single national database of telephone numbers of residential subscribers who object to receiving telephone solicitations. Consistent with the mandate of Congress in the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act (Do-Not-Call Act), the national do-not-call rules that we establish in this order “maximize consistency” with those of the FTC. The record clearly demonstrates widespread consumer dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the current rules and network technologies available to protect consumers from unwanted telephone solicitations. Indeed, many consumers believe that with the advent of such technologies as predictive dialers that the vices of telemarketing have become inherent, while its virtues remain accidental. We have compared and evaluated alternative methods to a national do-not-call list for protecting consumer privacy rights and conclude that these alternatives are costly and/or ineffective for both telemarketers and consumers. See 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1)(A). Start Printed Page 44145
4. A national do-not-call registry that is supplemented by the amendments made to our existing rules will provide consumers with a variety of options for managing telemarketing calls. Consumers may now: (1) Place their number on the national do-not-call list; (2) continue to make do-not-call requests of individual companies on a case-by-case basis; and/or (3) register on the national list, but provide specific companies with express permission to call them. Telemarketers may continue to call individuals who do not place their numbers on a do-not-call list and consumers with whom they have an established business relationship. We believe this result is consistent with Congress' directive in the TCPA that “[i]ndividuals” privacy rights, public safety interests, and commercial freedoms of speech and trade must be balanced in a way that protects the privacy of individuals and permits legitimate telemarketing practices.” See TCPA, Section 2(9), reprinted in 7 FCC Rcd at 2744.
5. We agree with Congress that consistency in the underlying regulations and administration of the national do-not-call registry is essential to avoid consumer confusion and regulatory uncertainty in the telemarketing industry. In so doing, we emphasize that there will be one centralized national do-not-call database of telephone numbers. The FTC has set up and will maintain the national database, while both agencies will coordinate enforcement efforts pursuant to a forthcoming Memorandum of Understanding. The states will also play an important role in the enforcement of the do-not-call rules. The FTC has received funding approval from Congress to begin implementation of the national do-not-call registry. Because the FTC lacks jurisdiction over certain entities, including common carriers, banks, insurance companies, and airlines, those entities would be allowed to continue calling individuals on the FTC's list absent FCC action exercising our broad authority given by Congress over telemarketers. In addition, the FTC's jurisdiction does not extend to intrastate activities. Action by this Commission to adopt a national do-not-call list, as permitted by the TCPA, requires all commercial telemarketers to comply with the national do-not-call requirements, thereby providing more comprehensive protections to consumers and consistent treatment of telemarketers.
National Do-Not-Call Registry
6. Pursuant to our authority under 47 U.S.C. 227(c), we adopt a national do-not-call registry that will provide residential consumers with a one-step option to prohibit unwanted telephone solicitations. This registry will be maintained by the FTC. Consistent with the FTC's determination, the national registry will become effective on October 1, 2003. Subject to certain exemptions, telemarketers will be prohibited from contacting those consumers that register their telephone numbers on the national list. In reaching this conclusion, we agree with the vast majority of consumers in this proceeding and the FTC that a national do-not-call registry is necessary to enhance the privacy interests of those consumers that do not wish to receive telephone solicitations. In response to the widespread consumer dissatisfaction with telemarketing practices, Congress has recently affirmed its support of a national do-not-call registry in approving funding for the FTC's national database. See H.R. J. Res. 2, 108th Congress at 96 (2003). See also H.R. REP. NO. 108-8 at 3 (2003), reprinted in 2003 U.S.C.C.A.N. 688, 670 (“[i]t is the strongly held view of the Committee that a national do-not-call list is in the best interest of consumers, businesses and consumer protection authorities. This legislation is an important step toward a one-stop solution to reducing telemarketing abuses.”). In so doing, Congress has indicated that this Commission should adopt rules that “maximize consistency” with those of the FTC. The record in this proceeding is replete with examples of consumers that receive numerous unwanted calls on a daily basis. The increase in the number of telemarketing calls over the last decade combined with the widespread use of such technologies as predictive dialers has encroached significantly on the privacy rights of consumers. For example, the effectiveness of the protections afforded by the company-specific do-not-call rules have been reduced significantly by dead air and hang-up calls that result from predictive dialers. In these situations, consumers have no opportunity to invoke their do-not-call rights and the Commission cannot pursue enforcement actions. Such intrusions have led many consumers to disconnect their phones during portions of the day or avoid answering their telephones altogether. The adoption of a national do-call-list will be an important tool for consumers that wish to exercise control over the increasing number of unwanted telephone solicitation calls.
7. Although some industry commenters attempt to characterize unwanted solicitation calls as petty annoyances and suggest that consumers purchase certain technologies to block unwanted calls, the evidence in this record leads us to believe the cumulative effect of these disruptions in the lives of millions of Americans each day is significant. As a result, we conclude that adoption of a national do-not-call list is now warranted. We believe that consumers should, at a minimum, be given the opportunity to determine for themselves whether or not they wish to receive telephone solicitation calls in their homes. The national do-not-call list will serve as an option for those consumers who have found the company-specific list and other network technologies ineffective. The telephone network is the primary means for many consumers to remain in contact with public safety organizations and family members during times of illness or emergency. Consumer frustration with telemarketing practices has reached a point in which many consumers no longer answer their telephones while others disconnect their phones during some hours of the day to maintain their privacy. We agree with consumers that incessant telephone solicitations are especially burdensome for the elderly, disabled, and those that work non-traditional hours. Persons with disabilities are often unable to register do-not-call requests on many company-specific lists because many telemarketers lack the equipment necessary to receive that request. Given the record evidence, along with Congress's recent affirmative support for a national do-not-call registry, we adopt a national do-not-call registry. We are mindful of the need to balance the privacy concerns of consumers with the interests of legitimate telemarketing practices. Therefore, we have provided for certain exemptions to the national do-not-call registry.
8. While we agree that concerns regarding the cost, accuracy, and privacy of a national do-not-call database remain relevant, we believe that circumstances have changed significantly since the Commission first reviewed this issue over a decade ago such that they no longer impose a substantial obstacle to the implementation of a national registry. As several commenters in this proceeding note, advances in computer technology and software now make the compilation and maintenance of a national database a more reasonable proposition. In addition, considerable experience has been gained through the implementation of many state do-not-Start Printed Page 44146call lists. In 1992, it was estimated by some commenters that the cost of establishing such a list in the first year could be as high as $80 million. Congress has recently reviewed and approved the FTC's request for $18.1 million to fund the national do-not-call list. We believe that the advent of more efficient technologies and the experience acquired in dealing with similar databases at the state level is responsible for this substantial reduction in cost.
9. Similarly, we believe that technology has become more proficient in ensuring the accuracy of a national database. The FTC indicates that to guard against the possibility of including disconnected or reassigned telephone numbers, technology will be employed on a monthly basis to check all registered telephone numbers against national databases, and remove those numbers that have been disconnected or reassigned. The length of time that registrations remain valid also directly affects the accuracy of the registry as telephone numbers change hands over time. We conclude that the retention period for both the national and company-specific do-not-call requests will be five years. See FTC Order, 68 FR 4580 at 4640 (January 29, 2003). Our rules previously required a company-specific do-not-call request to be honored for ten years. See 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(vi). Five years is consistent with the FTC's determination and our own record that reveals that the current ten-year retention period for company-specific requests is too long given changes in telephone numbers. Consumers must also register their do-not-call requests from either the telephone number of the phone that they wish to register or via the Internet. The FTC will confirm the accuracy of such registrations through the use of automatic number identification (ANI) and other technologies. The term “ANI” refers to the delivery of the calling party's billing number by a local exchange carrier to any interconnecting carrier for billing or routing purposes, and to the subsequent delivery of such number to end users. 47 CFR 64.1600(b). We believe that a five-year registration period coupled with a monthly purging of disconnected telephone numbers adequately balances the need to maintain accuracy in the national registry with any burden imposed on consumers to re-register periodically their telephone numbers.
10. We conclude that appropriate action has been taken to ensure the privacy of those registering on the national list. Specifically, the only consumer information telemarketers and sellers will receive from the national registry is the registrant's telephone number. This is the minimum amount of information that can be provided to implement the national registry. We note that the majority of telephone numbers are publicly available through telephone directories. To the extent that consumers have an unlisted number, the consumer will have to make a choice as to whether they prefer to register on a national do-not-call list or maintain complete anonymity. We reiterate, however, that the only information that will be provided to the telemarketer is the telephone number of the consumer. The “seller” and “telemarketer” may be the same entity or separate entities. Each entity on whose behalf the telephone call is being made must purchase access to the do-not-call database. No corresponding name or address information will be provided. We believe that this approach reduces the privacy concerns of such consumers to the greatest extent possible. As an additional safeguard, we find that restrictions should be imposed on the use of the national list. Consistent with the FTC's determination and 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(3)(K), we conclude that no person or entity may sell, rent, lease, purchase, or use the national do-not-call database for any purpose except compliance with section 227 and any such state or federal law to prevent telephone solicitations to telephone numbers on such list. See 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(3)(K). See also 16 CFR 310.4(b)(2). We conclude that these safeguards adequately protect the privacy rights of those consumers who choose to register on the national do-not-call list.
11. We conclude that the national database should allow for the registration of wireless telephone numbers, and that such action will better further the objectives of the TCPA and the Do-Not-Call Act. In so doing, we agree with the FTC and several commenters that wireless subscribers should not be excluded from the protections of the TCPA, particularly the option to register on a national do-not-call list. Congress has indicated its intent to provide significant protections under the TCPA to wireless users. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(iii). Allowing wireless subscribers to register on a national do-not-call list furthers the objectives of the TCPA, including protection for wireless subscribers from unwanted telephone solicitations for which they are charged.
12. Nextel Communications, Inc. (Nextel) argues, however, that, because the “TCPA only authorizes the Commission to regulate solicitations to ‘residential telephone subscribers,’ ” wireless subscribers may not participate in the do-not-call list. Nextel Comments at 19. Nextel states we should define “residential subscribers” to mean “telephone service used primarily for communications in the subscriber's residence.” However, Nextel's application would result in “[a]t most, the Commission [having the] authority to regulate solicitations to wireless subscribers in those circumstances where wireless service actually has displaced a residential land line, and functions as a consumer's primary residential telephone service.” Nextel Comments at 21.
13. Nextel's definition of “residential subscribers” is far too restrictive and inconsistent with the intent of section 227. Specifically, there is nothing in section 227 to suggest that only a customer's “primary residential telephone service” was all that Congress sought to protect through the TCPA. In addition, had Congress intended to exclude wireless subscribers from the benefits of the TCPA, it knew how to address wireless services or consumers explicitly. For example, in section 227(b)(1), Congress specifically prohibited calls using automatic telephone dialing systems or artificial or prerecorded voice to telephone numbers assigned to “paging service [or] cellular telephone service * * *.” Moreover, under Nextel's definition, even consumers who use their wireless telephone service in their homes to supplement their residential wireline service, such as by using their wireless telephone service to make long distance phone calls to avoid wireline toll charges, would be excluded from the protections of the TCPA. Such an interpretation is at odds even with Nextel's own reasoning for its definition—that the TCPA's goal is “to curb the ‘pervasive’ use of telemarketing ‘to market goods and services to the home’.” Nextel Comments at 20. It is well established that wireless subscribers often use their wireless phones in the same manner in which they use their residential wireline phones. Indeed, as even Nextel recognizes, there is a growing number of consumers who no longer maintain wireline phone service, and rely only on their wireless telephone service. Thus, we are not persuaded by Nextel's arguments.
14. Moreover, we believe it is more consistent with the overall intent of the TCPA to allow wireless subscribers to benefit from the full range of TCPA protections. Congress afforded wireless subscribers particular protections in the context of autodialers and prerecorded calls. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). In Start Printed Page 44147addition, although Congress expressed concern with residential privacy, it also was concerned with the nuisance, expense and burden that telephone solicitations place on consumers. Therefore, we conclude that wireless subscribers may participate in the national do-not-call list. As a practical matter, since determining whether any particular wireless subscriber is a “residential subscriber” may be more fact-intensive than making the same determination for a wireline subscriber, we will presume wireless subscribers who ask to be put on the national do-not-call list to be “residential subscribers.” This presumption is only for the purposes of section 227 and is not in any way indicative of any attempt to classify or regulate wireless carriers for purposes of other parts of Title II. Such a presumption, however, may require a complaining wireless subscriber to provide further proof of the validity of that presumption should we need to take enforcement action.
15. We emphasize that it is not our intent in adopting a national do-not-call list to prohibit legitimate telemarketing practices. We believe that industry commenters present a false choice between the continued viability of the telemarketing industry and the adoption of a national do-not-call list. We are not persuaded that the adoption of a national do-not-call list will unduly interfere with the ability of telemarketers to contact consumers. Many consumers will undoubtedly take advantage of the opportunity to register on the national list. Several industry commenters suggest, however, that consumers derive substantial benefits from telephone solicitations. If so, many such consumers will choose not to register on the national do-not-call list and will opt instead to make do-not-call requests on a case-by-case basis or give express permission to be contacted by specific companies. In addition, we have provided for certain exemptions to the do-not-call registry in recognition of legitimate telemarketing business practices. For example, sellers of goods or services via telemarketing may continue to contact consumers on the national list with whom they have an established business relationship. We also note that calls that do not fall within the definition of “telephone solicitation” as defined in section 227(a)(3) will not be precluded by the national do-not-call list. These may include surveys, market research, political or religious speech calls. The national do-not-call rules will also not prohibit calls to businesses and persons with whom the marketer has a personal relationship. Telemarketers may continue to contact all of these consumers despite the adoption of a national do-not-call list. Furthermore, we decline to adopt more restrictive do-not-call requirements on telemarketers as suggested by several commenters. For example, we decline to adopt an “opt-in” approach that would ban telemarketing to any consumer who has not expressly agreed to receive telephone solicitations. We believe that establishing such an approach would be overly restrictive on the telemarketing industry. We also decline to extend the national do-not-call requirements to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations or entities that telemarket on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
16. We agree with the FTC that a safe harbor should be established for telemarketers that have made a good faith effort to comply with the national do-not-call rules. A seller or telemarketer acting on behalf of the seller that has made a good faith effort to provide consumers with an opportunity to exercise their do-not-call rights should not be liable for violations that result from an error. Consistent with the FTC, we conclude that a seller or the entity telemarketing on behalf of the seller will not be liable for violating the national do-not-call rules if it can demonstrate that, as part of the seller's or telemarketer's routine business practice: (i) It has established and implemented written procedures to comply with the do-not-call rules; (ii) it has trained its personnel, and any entity assisting in its compliance, in the procedures established pursuant to the do-not-call rules; (iii) the seller, or telemarketer acting on behalf of the seller, has maintained and recorded a list of telephone numbers the seller may not contact; (iv) the seller or telemarketer uses a process to prevent telemarketing to any telephone number on any list established pursuant to the do-not-call rules employing a version of the do-not-call registry obtained from the administrator of the registry no more than three months prior to the date any call is made, and maintains records documenting this process; and (v) any subsequent call otherwise violating the do-not-call rules is the result of error. We acknowledge that the three-month safe harbor period for telemarketers may prove to be too long to benefit some consumers. The national do-not-call list has the capability to process new registrants virtually instantaneously and telemarketers will have the capability to download the list at any time at no extra cost. The Commission intends to monitor carefully the impact of this requirement pursuant to its annual report to Congress and may consider a shorter time frame in the future.
17. As required by 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1)(A), we have compared and evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of certain alternative methods to protect consumer privacy including the use of network technologies, special directory markings, and company-specific lists in adopting a national do-not-call database. The effectiveness of the company-specific approach has significantly eroded as a result of hang-up and “dead air” calls from predictive dialers. Consumers in these circumstances have no opportunity to assert their do-not-call rights. We believe that, as a stand-alone option, the company-specific approach no longer provides consumers with sufficient privacy protections. We also conclude that the availability of certain network technologies to reduce telephone solicitations is often ineffective and costly for consumers. Although technology has improved to assist consumers in blocking unwanted calls, it has also evolved in such a way as to assist telemarketers in making greater numbers of calls and even circumventing such blocking technologies. Millions of consumers continue to register on state do-not-call lists despite the availability of such technologies. Several commenters note that they continue to receive unwanted calls despite paying for technologies to reduce telephone solicitations. Several commenters also note that telemarketers routinely block transmission of caller ID. In particular, we are concerned that the cost of technologies such as caller ID, call blocking, and other such tools in an effort to reduce telemarketing calls fall entirely on the consumer. We believe that reliance on a solution that places the cost of reducing the number of unwanted solicitation calls entirely on the consumer is inconsistent with Congress' intent in the TCPA. For the reasons outlined in the 1992 TCPA Order, we also decline to adopt special area codes or prefixes for telemarketers. We believe this option is costly for Start Printed Page 44148telemarketers that would be required to change their telephone numbers and administratively burdensome to implement. We also decline to adopt special directory markings of area white page directories because it would require telemarketers to purchase and review thousands of local telephone directories, at great cost to the telemarketers. We also note that telemarketers often compile solicitation lists from many sources other than local telephone directories. In addition, such directories do not include unlisted or unregistered telephone numbers and are often updated infrequently. We also note that the record in this proceeding provides little support for this option.
18. We now review the other requirements of 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1). As required by section 227(c)(1)(B), we have evaluated AT&T Government Solutions, the entity selected by the FTC to administer the national database, and conclude that it has the capacity to establish and administer the national database. Congress has reviewed and approved funding for the implementation of that database. We believe that it is unnecessary to evaluate any other such entities at this time. We have considered whether different methods and procedures should apply for local telephone solicitations and small businesses as required by section 227(c)(1)(C). We conclude that the national do-not-call database takes into consideration the costs of those conducting telemarketing on a local or regional basis, including many small businesses. In particular, we note that the national do-not-call database will permit access to five or fewer area codes at no cost to the seller. Pursuant to section 227(c)(1)(D), we have considered whether there is a need for additional authority to further restrict telephone solicitations. We conclude that no such authority is required at this time. Pursuant to the Do-Not-Call Act, the Commission must report to Congress on an annual basis the effectiveness of the do-not-call registry. Should the Commission determine that additional authority is required over telephone solicitations as part of that analysis; the Commission will propose specific restrictions pursuant to that report. As required by section 227(c)(1)(E), we have developed regulations to implement the national do-not-call database in the most effective and efficient manner to protect consumer privacy needs while balancing legitimate telemarketing interests.
19. The FTC's decision to adopt a national do-not-call list is currently under review in federal district court. Because Congress has approved funding for the administration of the national list only for the FTC, this Commission would be forced to stay implementation of any national list should the plaintiffs prevail in one of those proceedings.
20. Established Business Relationship. We agree with the majority of industry commenters that an exemption to the national do-not-call list should be created for calls to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship. We note that 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(3) excludes from the definition of telephone solicitation calls made to any person with whom the caller has an established business relationship. We believe the ability of sellers to contact existing customers is an important aspect of their business plan and often provides consumers with valuable information regarding products or services that they may have purchased from the company. For example, magazines and newspapers may want to contact customers whose subscriptions have or soon will expire and offer new subscriptions. This conclusion is consistent with that of the FTC and the majority of states that have adopted do-not-call requirements and considered this issue. We revise the definition of an established business relationship so that it is limited in duration to eighteen (18) months from any purchase or transaction and three (3) months from any inquiry or application.
21. To the extent that some consumers oppose this exemption, we find that once a consumer has asked to be placed on the seller's company-specific do-not-call list, the seller may not call the consumer again regardless of whether the consumer continues to do business with the seller. We believe this determination constitutes a reasonable balance between the interests of consumers that may object to such calls with the interests of sellers in contacting their customers. This conclusion is also consistent with that of the FTC.
22. Prior Express Permission. In addition to the established business relationship exemption, we conclude that sellers may contact consumers registered on a national do-not-call list if they have obtained the prior express permission of those consumers. We note that section 227(a)(3) excludes from the definition of telephone solicitation calls to any person with “that person's prior express invitation or permission.” Consistent with the FTC's determination, we conclude that for purposes of the national do-not-call list such express permission must be evidenced only by a signed, written agreement between the consumer and the seller which states that the consumer agrees to be contacted by this seller, including the telephone number to which the calls may be placed. For purposes of this exemption, the term “signed” shall include an electronic or digital form of signature, to the extent that such form of signature is recognized as a valid signature under applicable federal or state contract law. Consumers registered on the national list may wish to have the option to be contacted by particular entities. Therefore, we conclude that sellers may obtain the express written agreement to call such consumers. The express agreement between the parties shall remain in effect as long as the consumer has not asked to be placed on the seller's company-specific do-not-call list. If the consumer subsequently requests not to be called, the seller must cease calling the consumer regardless of whether the consumer continues to do business with the seller. We also note that telemarketers may not call consumers on the national do-not-call list to request their written permission to be called unless they fall within some other exemption. We believe that to allow such calls would circumvent the purpose of this exemption. Prior express permission must be obtained by some other means such as direct mailing.
23. Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Organizations. We agree with those commenters that contend that the national do-not-call requirements should not be extended to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations or calls made by independent telemarketers on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. We note that 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(3) specifically excludes calls made by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from the definition of telephone solicitation. In so doing, we believe Congress clearly intended to exclude tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from prohibitions on telephone solicitations under the TCPA. The legislative history indicates that commercial calls constitute the bulk of all telemarketing calls. A number of commenters and the FTC agree with Congress' conclusion as it relates to a national do-not-call list. For this reason, we decline to extend the national do-not-call requirements to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. A few commenters seek clarification that requests for blood donations will be exempt from the national do-not-call list. When such requests are made by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, they will fall within the exemption for tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
24. Others. We decline to create specific exemptions to the national do-Start Printed Page 44149not-call requirements for entities such as newspapers, magazines, regional telemarketers, or small businesses. We find unpersuasive arguments that application of the national do-not-call database adopted herein will result in severe economic consequences for these entities. In particular, we note the exemptions adopted for calls made to consumers with whom the seller has an established business relationship and those that have provided express agreement to be called. As noted, many consumers may also determine not to register on the national database. Telemarketers may continue to contact all of these consumers. We believe these exemptions provide telemarketers with a reasonable opportunity to conduct their business while balancing consumer privacy interests. Although we agree that newspapers and other entities may often provide useful information and services to the public, given our conclusion that adoption of the national do-not-call list will not unduly interfere with the ability of telemarketers to reach consumers, we do not find this to be a compelling basis to exempt these entities.
25. We find that the national do-not-call rules do not apply to calls made to persons with whom the marketer has a personal relationship. As discussed herein, a “personal relationship” refers to an individual personally known to the telemarketer making the call. In such cases, we believe that calls to family members, friends and acquaintances of the caller will be both expected by the recipient and limited in number. In determining whether a telemarketer is considered a “friend” or “acquaintance” of a consumer, we will look at, among other things, whether a reasonable consumer would expect calls from such a person because they have a close or, at least, firsthand relationship. If a complaining consumer were to indicate that a relationship is not sufficiently personal for the consumer to have expected a call from the marketer, we would be much less likely to find that the personal relationship exemption is applicable. While we do not adopt a specific cap on the number of calls that a marketer may make under this exemption, we underscore that the limited nature of the exemption creates a strong presumption against those marketers who make more than a limited number of calls per day. Therefore, the two most common sources of consumer frustration associated with telephone solicitations—high volume and unexpected solicitations—are not likely present when such calls are limited to persons with whom the marketer has a personal relationship. Accordingly, we find that these calls do not represent the type of “telephone solicitations to which [telephone subscribers] object” discussed in 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1). Moreover, we conclude that the Commission also has authority to recognize this limited carve-out pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1)(E). This subsection provides the Commission with discretion in implementing rules to protect consumer privacy to “develop proposed regulations to implement the methods and procedures that the Commission determines are the most effective and efficient to accomplish the purpose of this section.” 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1)(E). To the extent that any consumer objects to such calls, the consumer may request to be placed on the telemarketer's company's company-specific do-not-call list. We intend to monitor these rules and caution that any individual or entity relying on personal relationships abusing this exemption may be subject to enforcement action.
26. In addition, we decline to extend this approach beyond persons that have a personal relationship with the marketer. For example, Vector urges the Commission to adopt an exemption that covers “face-to-face” appointment calls to anyone known personally to the “referring source.” We note that such relationships become increasingly tenuous as they extend to individuals not personally known to the marketer and thus such calls are more likely to be unexpected to the recipient and more voluminous. Accordingly, referrals to persons that do not have a personal relationship with the marketer will not fall within the category of calls discussed above.
27. We also decline to establish an exemption for calls made to set “face-to-face” appointments per se. We conclude that such calls are made for the purpose of encouraging the purchase of goods and services and therefore fall within the statutory definition of telephone solicitation. We find no reason to conclude that such calls are somehow less intrusive to consumers than other commercial telephone solicitations. The FTC has reviewed this issue and reached the same conclusion. In addition, we decline to exempt entities that make a “de minimis” number of commercial telemarketing calls. In contrast to Congress' rationale for exempting nonprofit organizations, we believe that such commercial calls continue to be unexpected to consumers even if made in low numbers. We do not believe the costs to access the national database is unreasonable for any small business or entity making a “de minimis” number of calls.
28. In response to the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, CG Docket No. 02-278, FCC 03-62 published at 68 FR 16250, April 3, 2003 (FNPRM) a few commenters contend that any new rules the Commission adopts would not apply to entities engaged in the business of insurance, because such rules would conflict with the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The McCarran-Ferguson Act provides that “[t]he business of insurance * * * shall be subject to the laws of the * * * States which relate to the regulation * * * of such business.” 15 U.S.C. 1012(a). The McCarran-Ferguson Act further provides that “[n]o Act of Congress shall be construed to invalidate, impair, or supersede any law enacted by any State for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance * * * unless such Act specifically relates to the business of insurance.” 15 U.S.C. 1012(b). American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) explains that insurers' marketing activities are extensively regulated at the state level. The Commission's proposal, ACLI argues, “intrudes upon the insurance regulatory framework established by the states” and, therefore, should not be applicable to insurers under McCarran-Ferguson.
29. The McCarran-Ferguson Act does not operate to exempt insurance companies wholesale from liability under the TCPA. It applies only when their activities constitute the “business of insurance,” the state has enacted laws “for the purpose of regulating” the business of insurance, and the TCPA would “impair, invalidate, or supersede” such state laws. See 15 U.S.C. 1012(b). In the one case cited by commenters as addressing the interplay between McCarran-Ferguson and the TCPA, a federal district court dismissed a claim brought against two insurance companies under the TCPA for sending unsolicited facsimile advertisements. The Chair King, Inc. v. Houston Cellular Corp., 1995 WL 1760037 (S.D. Tex. 1995), vacated for lack of subject matter jurisdiction 131 F.3d 507 (5th Cir. 1997). The Chair King court found that the TCPA conflicted with a Texas law that prohibited untrue, deceptive, or misleading advertising by insurers and their agents. In its analysis, the court determined that insurance advertising was part of the “business of insurance,” and that the Texas law in question was enacted for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance. The court then concluded that because the TCPA Start Printed Page 44150“prohibits unsolicited insurance advertising by facsimile while the Texas [laws] permit [such] advertising * * * so long as the advertisements are truthful and not misleading,” the TCPA conflicts with the Texas law and is preempted under McCarran-Ferguson. See 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C) and (a)(4).
30. To the extent that any state law regulates the “business of insurance” and the TCPA is found to “invalidate, impair, or supersede” such state law, it is possible that a particular activity involving the business of insurance would not fall within the reach of the TCPA. Any determination about the applicability of McCarran-Ferguson, however, requires an analysis of the particular activity and State law regulating it. In addition, McCarran-Ferguson applies only to federal statutes that “invalidate, impair, or supersede” state insurance regulation. Courts have held that duplication of state law prohibitions by a federal statute do not “invalidate, impair, or supersede” state laws regulating the business of insurance. Nor is the mere presence of a regulatory scheme enough to show that a state statute is “invalidated, impaired or superseded.”
31. We believe that the TCPA, which was enacted to protect consumer privacy interests, is compatible with states' regulatory interests. In fact, the TCPA permits States to enforce the provisions of the TCPA on behalf of residents of their State. 47 U.S.C. 227(f)(1). In addition, we believe that uniform application of the national do-not-call registry to all entities that use the telephone to advertise best serves the goals of the TCPA. To exempt the insurance industry from liability under the TCPA would likely confuse consumers and interfere with the protections provided by Congress through the TCPA. Therefore, to the extent that the operation of McCarran-Ferguson on the TCPA is unclear, we will raise this issue in our Report to Congress as required by the Do-Not-Call Act.
32. We conclude that the national do-not-call mechanism established by the FTC and this Commission adequately takes into consideration the needs of small businesses and entities that telemarket on a local or regional basis in gaining access to the national database. As required by 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1)(C), we have considered whether different procedures should apply for local solicitations and small businesses. We decline, however, to exempt such entities from the national do-not-call requirements. Given the large number of entities that solicit by telephone, and the technological tools that allow even small entities to make a significant number of solicitation calls, we believe that to do so would undermine the effectiveness of the national do-not-call rules in protecting consumer privacy and create consumer confusion and frustration. In so doing, we conclude that the approach adopted herein satisfies section 227(c)(4)'s requirement that the Commission, in developing procedures for gaining access to the database, consider the different needs of telemarketers conducting business on a national, regional, State, or local level and develop a fee schedule for recouping the cost of such database that recognizes such differences. The national database will be available for purchase by sellers on an area-code-by-area-code basis. The cost to access the database will vary depending on the number of area codes requested. Sellers need only purchase those area codes in which the seller intends to telemarket. In fact, sellers that request access to five or fewer area codes will be granted access to those area codes at no cost. We note that thirty-three states currently have five or fewer area codes. Thus, telemarketers or sellers operating on a “local” or “regional” basis within one of these thirty-three states will have access to all of that state's national do-not-call registrants at no cost. In addition, the national database will provide a single number lookup feature whereby a small number of telephone numbers can be entered on a web page to determine whether any of those numbers are included on the national registry. We believe this fee structure adequately reflects the needs of regional telemarketers, small business and those marketing on a de minimis level. For these reasons, we conclude that this approach will not place any unreasonable costs on small businesses. 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(4)(B)(iii).
Section 227(c)(3) Requirements
33. We conclude that the national do-not-call database adopted jointly by this Commission and the FTC satisfies each of the statutory requirements outlined in 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(3)(A) through (c)(3)(L). We now discuss each such requirement. Section 227(c)(3)(A) requires the Commission to specify the method by which an entity to administer the national database will be selected. On August 2, 2002, the FTC issued a Request for Quotes (RFQ) to selected vendors on GSA schedules seeking proposals to develop, implement, and operate the national registry. After evaluating those proposals, the FTC selected a competitive range of vendors and issued an amended RFQ to those vendors on November 25, 2002. After further evaluation, the FTC selected AT&T Government Solutions as the successful vendor for the national do-not-call database on March 1, 2003. Congress has approved the necessary funding for implementation of the national database.
34. Pursuant to sections 227(c)(3)(B) through (c)(3)(C), we require each common carrier providing telephone exchange service to inform subscribers for telephone exchange service of the opportunity to provide notification that such subscriber objects to receiving telephone solicitations. Each telephone subscriber shall be informed, by the common carrier that provides local exchange service to that subscriber, of (i) the subscriber's right to give or revoke a notification of an objection to receiving telephone solicitations pursuant to the national database and (ii) the methods by which such rights may be exercised by the subscriber. Pursuant to section 227(c)(3)(C), we conclude that, beginning on January 1, 2004, such common carriers shall provide an annual notice, via an insert in the customer's bill, to inform their subscribers of the opportunity to register or revoke registrations on the national do-not-call database. Although we do not specify the exact description or form that such notification should take, such notification must be clear and conspicuous. At a minimum, it must include the toll-free telephone number and Internet address established by the FTC to register or revoke registrations on the national do-not-call database.
35. Section 227(c)(3)(D) requires the Commission to specify the methods by which registrations shall be collected and added to the database. Consumers will be able to add their telephone numbers to the national do-not-call registry either through a toll-free telephone call or over the Internet. Consumers who choose to register by phone will have to call the registration number from the telephone line that they wish to register. Their calls will be answered by an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The consumers will be asked to enter on their telephone keypad the telephone number from which the consumer is calling. This number will be checked against the ANI that is transmitted with the call. If the number entered matches the ANI, then the consumer will be informed that the number has been registered. Consumers who choose to register over the Internet will go to a Web site dedicated to the registration process where they will be asked to enter the telephone number they wish to register. We encourage the FTC to notify consumers in the IVR message that the national registry will Start Printed Page 44151prevent most, but not all, telemarketing calls. Specifically, we believe consumers should be informed that the do-not-call registry does not apply to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations and companies with whom consumers have an established business relationship. The effectiveness and value of the national registry depends largely on an informed public. Therefore, we also intend to emphasize in our educational materials and on our Web site the purpose and scope of the new rules.
36. Section 227(c)(3)(E) prohibits any residential subscriber from being charged for giving or revoking notification to be included on the national do-not-call database. Consumers may register or revoke do-not-call requests either by a toll-free telephone call or over the Internet. No charge will be imposed on the consumer. Section 227(c)(3)(F) prohibits any person from making or transmitting a telephone solicitation to the telephone number of any subscriber included on the national database. Subject to the exemptions, we adopt rules herein that will prohibit telephone solicitations to those consumers that have registered on the national database. See also 16 CFR 310.4(b)(1)(iii)(B).
37. Section 227(c)(3)(G) requires the Commission to specify (i) the methods by which any person deciding to make telephone solicitations will obtain access to the database, by area code or local exchange prefix, and (ii) the costs to be recovered from such persons. Section 227(c)(3)(H) requires the Commission to specify the methods for recovering, from the persons accessing the database, the costs involved in the operations of the database. To comply with the national do-not-call rules, telemarketers must gain access to the telephone numbers in the national database. Telemarketers will have access to the national database by means of a fully-automated, secure Web site dedicated to providing information to these entities. The first time a telemarketer accesses the system, the company will be asked to provide certain limited identifying information, such as name and address, contact person, and contact person's telephone number and address. If a telemarketer is accessing the registry on behalf of a client seller, the telemarketer will also need to identify that client. When a telemarketer first submits an application to access registry information, the company will be asked to specify the area codes they want to access. An annual fee will be assessed based upon the number of area codes requested. The FTC has proposed that sellers be charged $29 per area code with a maximum annual fee of $7,250 for access to the entire national database. Sellers may request access to five or less area codes for free. Each entity on whose behalf the telephone solicitation is being made must pay this fee via credit card or electronic funds transfer. After payment is processed, the telemarketer will be given an account number and permitted to access the appropriate portions of the registry. Telemarketers will be permitted to access the registry as often as they wish for no additional cost, once the annual fee is paid.
38. Section 227(c)(3)(I) requires the Commission to specify the frequency with which the national database will be updated and specify the method by which such updates will take effect for purposes of compliance with the do-not-call regulations. Because the registration process will be completely automated, updates will occur continuously. Consumer registrations will be added to the registry at the same time they register—or at least within a few hours after they register. The safe harbor provision requires telemarketers to employ a version of the registry obtained not more than three months before any call is made. Thus, telemarketers will be required to update their lists at least quarterly. Instead of making the list available on specific dates, the registry will be available for downloading on a constant basis so that telemarketers can access the registry at any time. As a result, each telemarketer's three-month period may begin on different dates. Appropriate state and federal regulators will be capable of verifying when the telemarketer last accessed the list. In addition, the administrator will check all telephone numbers in the do-not-call registry each month against national databases, and those numbers that have been disconnected or reassigned will be removed from the registry. We encourage parties that may have specific recommendations on ways to improve the overall accuracy of the database in removing disconnected and reassigned telephone numbers to submit such proposals to our attention and to the FTC directly.
39. Section 227(c)(3)(J) requires that the Commission's regulations be designed to enable states to use the database for purposes of administering or enforcing state law. In fact, 47 U.S.C. 227(e)(2) prohibits states from using any database that does not include the part of the national database that relates to such state. Section 227(c)(3)(K) prohibits the use of the database for any purpose other than compliance with the do-not-call rules and any such state law and requires the Commission to specify methods for protection of the privacy rights of persons whose numbers are included in such database. Consistent with the determination of the FTC, we conclude that any law enforcement agency that has responsibility to enforce federal or state do-not-call rules or regulations will be permitted to access the appropriate information in the national registry. This information will be obtained through a secure Internet Web site. Such law enforcement access to data in the national registry is critical to enable state Attorneys General, public utility commissions or an official or agency designated by a state, and other appropriate law enforcement officials to gather evidence to support enforcement of the do-not-call rules under the state and federal law. In addition, we have imposed restrictions on the use of the national list. Consistent with the FTC's determination, we have concluded that no person or entity may sell, rent, lease, purchase, or use the national do-not-call database for any purpose except compliance with section 227 and any such state or federal law to prevent telephone solicitations to telephone numbers on such list. We specifically prohibit any entity from purchasing this list from any entity other than the national do-not-call administrator or dispensing the list to any entity that has not paid the required fee to the administrator. The only information that will be made available to telemarketers is the telephone number of consumers registered on the list. Given the restrictions imposed on the use of the national database and the limited amount of information provided, we believe that adequate privacy protections have been established for consumers.
40. Section 227(c)(3)(L) requires each common carrier providing services to any person for the purpose of making telephone solicitations to notify such person of the requirements of the national do-not-call rules and the regulations thereunder. We therefore require common carriers, beginning January 1, 2004, to make a one-time notification to any person or entity making telephone solicitations that is served by that carrier of the national do-not-call requirements. We do not specify the exact description or form that such notification should take. At a minimum, it must include a citation to the relevant federal do-not-call rules as set forth in 47 CFR 64.1200 and 16 CFR part 310, respectively. Although we recognize that carriers may not be capable of identifying every person or entity engaged in telephone solicitations Start Printed Page 44152served by that carrier, we require carriers to make reasonable efforts to comply with this requirement. We note that failure to give such notice by the common carrier to a telemarketer served by that carrier will not excuse the telemarketer from violations of the Commission's rules.
41. We conclude that a national do-not-call registry is consistent with the First Amendment. We believe, like the FTC, that our regulations satisfy the criteria set forth in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Pub. Serv. Comm. of N.Y., in which the Supreme Court established the applicable analytical framework for determining the constitutionality of a regulation of commercial speech. Central Hudson Gas & Elec. v. Pub. Serv. Comm. of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980). See Kathryn Moser v. Federal Communications Commission, 46 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 1995) (Moser) cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1161 (1995) (upholding ban on prerecorded telephone calls); State of Missouri v. American Blast Fax, 323 F.3d 649 (8th Cir. 2003) (American Blast Fax), pet. for rehearing pending (upholding ban on unsolicited fax advertising) and Destination Ventures v. Federal Communications Commission, 46 F.3d 54 (9th Cir.1995) (Destination Ventures) (upholding ban on unsolicited fax advertising). Our conclusion is also consistent with every Court of Appeals decision that has considered First Amendment challenges to the TCPA.
42. Under the framework established in Central Hudson, a regulation of commercial speech will be found compatible with the First Amendment if (1) there is a substantial government interest; (2) the regulation directly advances the substantial government interest; and (3) the proposed regulations are not more extensive than necessary to serve that interest. Central Hudson, 447 U.S. at 566. Specifically, the Court found that “[f]or commercial speech to come within the First Amendment, it at least must concern lawful activity and not be misleading. Next, it must be determined whether the asserted governmental interest to be served by the restriction on commercial speech is substantial. If both inquiries yield positive answers, it must then be decided whether the regulation directly advances the governmental interest asserted, and whether it is not more extensive than is necessary to serve that interest.” Id. at 557. Under the first prong, we find that there is a substantial governmental interest in protecting residential privacy. The Supreme Court has “repeatedly held that individuals are not required to welcome unwanted speech into their homes and that the government may protect this freedom.” Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, 485. See also Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726, 748 (1978) (“[I]n the privacy of the home, * * * the individual's right to be left alone plainly outweighs the First Amendment rights of an intruder.”).
43. In particular, the government has an interest in upholding the right of residents to bar unwanted speech from their homes. In Rowan v. United States Post Office, the Supreme Court upheld a statute that permitted a person to require that a mailer remove his name from its mailing lists and stop all future mailings to the resident:
The Court has traditionally respected the right of a householder to bar, by order or notice, solicitors, hawkers, and peddlers from his property. In this case the mailer's right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer. * * * In effect, Congress has erected a wall—or more accurately permits a citizen to erect a wall—that no advertiser may penetrate without his acquiescence.
Rowan v. United States Post Office, 397 U.S. 728 at 737-738 (1970).
44. Here, the record supports that the government has a substantial interest in regulating telemarketing calls. In 1991, Congress held numerous hearings on telemarketing, finding, among other things, that “[m]ore than 300,000 solicitors call more than 18,000,000 Americans every day” and “[u]nrestricted telemarketing can be an intrusive invasion of privacy and, when an emergency or medical assistance telephone line is seized, a risk to public safety.” Our record, like the FTC's, demonstrates that telemarketing calls are even more of an invasion of privacy than they were in 1991. The number of daily calls has increased five fold (to an estimated 104 million), due in part to the use of new technologies, such as predictive dialers. An overwhelming number of consumers in the approximately 6,500 commenters in this proceeding support the adoption and implementation of a national do-not-call registry. In addition to citing concerns about the numerous and ever-increasing number of calls, they complain about the inadequacies of the company-specific approach, the burdens of such calls on the elderly and people with disabilities, and the costs of acquiring technologies to reduce the number of unwanted calls. Accordingly, we believe that the record demonstrates that telemarketing calls are a substantial invasion of residential privacy, and regulations that address this problem serve a substantial government interest.
45. Under Central Hudson's second prong, we find that the Commission's regulations directly advance the substantial government interest. Under this prong, the government must demonstrate that “the harms it recites are real and that its restriction will in fact alleviate them to a material degree.” Florida Bar v. Went For It, Inc., 515 U.S. 618, 626 (1995) (citations omitted). It may justify the restrictions on speech “based solely on history, consensus, and “simple common sense. ” Id. at 628 (citation omitted). Creating and implementing a national do-not-call registry will directly advance the government's interest in protecting residential privacy from unwanted telephone solicitations. Congress, consumers, state governments and the FTC have reached the same conclusion. The history of state administered do-not-call lists demonstrates that such do-not-call programs have a positive impact on the ability of many consumers to protect their privacy by reducing the number of unwanted telephone solicitations that they receive each day. Congress has reviewed the FTC's decision to establish a national do-not-call list and concluded that the do-not-call initiative will provide significant benefits to consumers throughout the United States. We reject the arguments that because our do-not-call registry provisions do not apply to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, our regulations do not directly and materially advance the government interest of protecting residential privacy. “Government [need not] make progress on every front before it can make progress on any front.” United States v. Edge Broadcasting Company, 509 U.S. 418, 434 (1993). See also Moser v. FCC, 46 F.3d at 975 (“Congress may reduce the volume of telemarketing calls without completely eliminating the calls.”).
46. We believe that the facts here are easily distinguishable from those in Rubin v. Coors Brewing Company, 514 U.S. 476 (1995) and City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network, 507 U.S. 410 (1993). In Coors, the Court struck down a prohibition against disclosure of alcoholic content on labels or in advertising that applied to beer but not to wine or distilled spirits, finding that “the irrationality of this unique and puzzling regulatory framework ensures that the labeling ban will fail to achieve [the Government's interest in combating strength wars.]” In Discovery Network, the Court struck down an ordinance which banned 62 newsracks containing commercial publications but did not ban 1,500-2,000 newsracks containing Start Printed Page 44153newspapers, finding that “the distinction bears no relationship whatsoever to the particular [aesthetic] interests that the city has asserted.” Here, Congress' decision to exclude tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from the definition of telemarketing in the TCPA was both rational and related to its interest in protecting residential privacy. The House Report finds that “the record suggests that most unwanted telephone solicitations are commercial in nature. * * *[T]he Committee also reached the conclusion, based on the evidence, that “ calls [from tax-exempt nonprofit organizations] are less intrusive to consumers because they are more expected. Consequently, the two main sources of consumer problems “ high volume of solicitations and unexpected solicitations—are not present in solicitations by nonprofit organizations.” H.R. Rep. No. 102-317, at 16 (1991).
47. Commenters in our record also express the concern that subjecting tax-exempt nonprofit organizations to the national do-not-call requirements may sweep too broadly because it would prompt some consumers to accept blocking of non-commercial, charitable calls to which they might not otherwise object as an undesired effect of registering on the national database to stop unwanted commercial solicitation calls. Both the Eighth and the Ninth Circuits in American Blast Fax and Destination Ventures found that the provisions of the TCPA, which bans unsolicited commercial faxes but not non-commercial faxes, directly advance a substantial government interest, and we believe that the same distinction may be applied to the national do-not-call registry.
48. We find under the third prong of the Central Hudson test that our proposed regulations are not more extensive than necessary to protect residential privacy. The Supreme Court has made clear that with respect to this prong, “the differences between commercial speech and noncommercial speech are manifest.” Florida Bar, 515 U.S. 618, 632. The Court held that:
[T]he least restrictive means test has no role in the commercial speech context. What our decisions require, instead, is a fit between the legislature's ends and the means chosen to accomplish those ends, a fit that is not necessarily perfect, but reasonable; that represents not necessarily the single best disposition but one whose scope is in proportion to the interest served * * * [T]he existence of numerous and obvious less-burdensome alternatives to the restriction on commercial speech is certainly a relevant consideration in determining whether the fit between the ends and means is reasonable.
In Florida Bar, the Supreme Court found that a prohibition against lawyers using direct mail to solicit personal injury or wrongful death clients within 30 days of an accident was not more extensive than necessary to “protect * * * the privacy and tranquility of personal injury victims and their loved ones against intrusive, unsolicited contact by lawyers.” Id. at 624. Similarly, the Ninth Circuit has found that the TCPA's ban on prerecorded telemarketing calls constitutes a “reasonable fit” with the government's legitimate interest in protecting residential privacy. Moser, 46 F.3d at 975.
49. Here, we find that our regulations meet the requirements of Central Hudson's third prong. Pursuant to our regulations, we adopt a single, national do-not-call database that we will enforce jointly with the FTC. Our rules mandate that common carriers providing telephone exchange service shall inform their subscribers of their right to register on the database either through a toll-free telephone call or over the Internet. Furthermore, telemarketers and sellers must gain access to telephone numbers in the national database and will be able to do so by means of a fully automated, secure Web site dedicated to providing information to these entities. In addition, sellers will be assessed an annual fee based upon the number of area codes they want to assess, with the maximum annual fee capped at $7,250. Our rules also provide that the national database will be updated continuously, and telemarketers must update their lists quarterly. We find that our regulations are a reasonable fit between the ends and means and are not as restrictive as the bans upheld in the cases cited. In Florida Bar, the Supreme Court upheld an absolute ban against lawyers using direct mail to solicit personal injury or wrongful death clients within 30 days of an accident. Similarly, the Ninth Circuit has upheld the TCPA's absolute ban on prerecorded telemarketing calls, and both the Eighth and Ninth Circuit have upheld the TCPA's absolute ban on unsolicited faxes. Here, our regulations do not absolutely ban telemarketing calls. Rather, they provide a mechanism by which individual consumers may choose not to receive telemarketing calls. We also note that there are many other ways available to market products to consumers, such as newspapers, television, radio advertising and direct mail. See Florida Bar, 515 U.S. at 633-34. In addition, there simply are not “numerous and obvious less-burdensome alternatives” to the national do-not-call registry. The record clearly demonstrates widespread consumer dissatisfaction both with the effectiveness of the current company-specific rules that are currently in place and the effectiveness and expense of certain technological alternatives to reduce telephone solicitations. We also note that many of the “burdens” of the national do-not-call registry—issues concerning its costs, accuracy, and privacy—have been addressed by advances in computer technology and software over the last ten years. Thus, we find that our regulations implementing the national do-not-call registry are consistent with the First Amendment and the framework established in Central Hudson.
50. Furthermore, we reject the arguments that the Central Hudson framework is not appropriate and that strict scrutiny is required because the regulations implementing the national do-not-call list are content-based, due to the TCPA's exemptions for non-profit organizations and established business relationships. For support, commenters cite to Discovery Network, 507 U.S. 410, in which the Court struck down Cincinnati's ordinance which banned newsracks containing commercial publications but did not ban newsracks containing newspapers. The Court found that the regulation could neither be justified as a restriction on commercial speech under Central Hudson, nor could it be upheld as a valid time, place, or manner restriction on protected speech. City of Cincinnati v. Discovery Network Inc. et al., 507 U.S. 410 at 430 (1993). The Court explained that “the government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place or manner of engaging in protected speech provided that they are adequately justified “without reference to the content of the regulated speech'.” Id. at 428 (citation omitted). In this case, the Court held that the City's ban which covered commercial publications but not newspapers was content-based. Id. at 429. “It is the absence of a neutral justification for its selective ban on newsracks that prevents the city from defending its newsrack policy as content neutral.” Id. at 429-30.
51. Here, however, there was a neutral justification for Congress' decision to exclude non-profit organizations. Congress found that “the two sources of consumer problems—high volume of solicitations and unexpected solicitations—are not present in solicitations by nonprofit organizations.” H.R. Rep. No. 102-317, at 16 (1991). Congress also made a similar finding with respect to solicitations based on established Start Printed Page 44154business relationships. Id. at 14. Consumers are more likely to anticipate contacts from companies with whom they have an existing relationship and the volume of such calls will most likely be lower. Furthermore, as the Eighth Circuit noted when it distinguished the Discovery Network case in upholding the TCPA's ban on unsolicited faxes that applies to commercial speech but not to noncommercial speech, “the government may regulate one aspect of a problem without regulating all others.” Missouri ex rel. v. American Blast Fax, 323 F.3d at 656 n.4 (citing United States v. Edge Broad. Co., 509 U.S. 418 at 434). Thus, we believe it is clear that our do-not-call registry regulations may apply to commercial solicitations without applying to tax-exempt nonprofit solicitations, and that such regulations are not subject to a higher level of scrutiny. Indeed, we agree with the FTC that regulation of non-profit solicitations are subject to a higher level of scrutiny than solicitations of commercial speech FTC Order, 68 FR at 4636, n. 675, quoting from Metromedia v. San Diego, 453 U.S. 490, 513 (1981) and citing Watchtower Bible and Tract Soc'y v. Village of Stratton, 122 S.Ct. 2080, and “greater care must be given [both] to ensuring that the governmental interest is actually advanced by the regulatory remedy, and [to] tailoring the regulation narrowly so as to minimize its impact on First Amendment rights.” FTC Order, 68 FR at 4636.
Consistency With State and FTC Do-Not-Call Rules
52. We conclude that harmonization of the various state and federal do-not-call programs to the greatest extent possible will reduce the potential for consumer confusion and regulatory burdens on the telemarketing industry. An underlying concern expressed by many commenters in this proceeding is the potential for duplication of effort and/or inconsistency in the rules relating to the state and federal do-not-call programs. Congress has indicated a similar concern in requiring the Commission to “maximize consistency” with the FTC's rules. We find that the use of a single national database of do-not-call registrants will ultimately prove the most efficient and economical means for consumer registrations and access for compliance purposes by telemarketing entities and regulators.
53. The states have a long history of regulating telemarketing practices, and we believe that it is critical to combine the resources and expertise of the state and federal governments to ensure compliance with the national do-not-call rules. In fact, the TCPA specifically outlines a role for the states in this process. See 47 U.S.C. 227(e) and (f). In an effort to reconcile the state and federal roles, we have conducted several meetings with the states and FTC. We expect such coordination to be ongoing in an effort to promote the continued effectiveness of the national do-not-call program. We clarify the respective governmental roles in this process under the TCPA. We intend to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with the FTC in the near future outlining the respective federal responsibilities under the national do-not-call rules. We note that a few commenters have expressed concern that the FTC and this Commission may adopt separate national do-not-call lists. We reiterate here that there will be only one national database.
54. Use of a Single Database. We conclude that the use of a single national do-not-call database, administered by the vendor selected by the FTC, will ultimately prove the most efficient and economical means for consumer registrations and access by telemarketers and regulators. The establishment of a single database of registrants will allow consumers to register their requests not to be called in a single transaction with one governmental agency. In addition, telemarketers may access consumer registrations for purposes of compliance with the do-not-call rules through one visit to a national database. This will substantially alleviate the potential for consumer confusion and administrative burden on telemarketers that would exist if required to access multiple databases. In addition, we note that section 227(e)(2) prohibits states, in regulating telephone solicitations, from using any database, list, or list system that does not include the part of such single national database that relates to that state. Thus, pursuant to this requirement, any individual state do-not-call database must include all of the registrants on the national database for that state. We determine that the administrator of the national database shall make the numbers in the database available to the states as required by the TCPA.
55. We believe the most efficient way to create a single national database will be to download the existing state registrations into the national database. The FTC has indicated that the national database is designed to allow the states to download into the national registry—at no cost—the telephone numbers of consumers that have registered with their state do-not-call lists. We believe that consumers, telemarketers, and regulators will benefit from the efficiencies derived from the creation of a single do-not-call database. We encourage states to work diligently toward this goal. We recognize that a reasonable transition period may be required to incorporate the state registrations in a few states into the national database. We therefore adopt an 18-month transition period for states to download their state lists into the national database. Having an 18-month transition period will allow states that do not have full-time legislatures to complete a legislative cycle and create laws that would authorize the use of a national list. In addition, this transition period is consistent with the amount of time that the FTC anticipates it would take to incorporate the states' lists into the national database. Although we do not preempt or require states to discontinue the use of their own databases at this time, once the national do-not-call registry goes into effect, states may not, in their “regulation of telephone solicitations, require the use of any database, list, or listing system that does not include the part of [the national do-not-call registry] that relates to [each] State.” See 47 U.S.C. 227(e)(2). We believe that there are significant advantages and efficiencies to be derived from the creation and use of a single database for all parties, including states, and we strongly encourage states to assist in this effort. The Commission intends to work diligently with the states and FTC in an effort to establish a single do-not-call database.
56. Interplay of State and Federal Do-Not-Call Regulations. In the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Memorandum Opinion and Order, 17 FCC Rcd 17459, CG Docket No. 02-278 and CC Docket No. 92-90 (2002) (2002 Notice), we generally raised the issue of the interplay of state and federal do-not-call statutes and regulations. In response, several parties argued that state regulations must or should be preempted in whole, or at least in part, and several other parties argued that the Commission cannot or should not preempt. For example, several industry commenters contend that the TCPA provides the Commission with the authority to preempt state do-not-call regulations. These commenters contend that Congress intended the TCPA to occupy the field or, at the very least, intended to preempt state regulation of interstate telemarketing. Many state and consumer commenters note, however, that the TCPA contemplates a role for the states in regulating telemarketing Start Printed Page 44155and specifically prohibits preemption of state law in certain instances. States and consumers note that state do-not-call regulations have been a successful initiative in protecting consumer privacy rights. In addition, several commenters note the importance of federal and state cooperation in enforcing the national do-not-call regulations. The record also indicates that states have historically enforced their own state statutes within, as well as across state lines. The statute also contains a savings clause for state proceedings to enforce civil or criminal statutes, and at least one federal court has found that the TCPA does not preempt state regulation of autodialers that are not in actual conflict with the TCPA. Van Bergen v. Minnesota, 59 F.3d 1541, 1547-48 (8th Cir. 1995).
57. The main area of difference between the state and federal do-not-call programs relates to the exemptions created from the respective do-not-call regulations. Some state regulations are less restrictive by adopting exemptions that are not recognized under federal law. For example, some states have adopted exemptions for insurance agents, newspapers, or small businesses. In addition, a few states have enacted laws that are more restrictive than the federal regulations by not recognizing federal exemptions such as the established business relationship. Most states, however, exempt nonprofit organizations and companies with whom the consumer has an established business relationship in some manner consistent with federal regulations.
58. At the outset, we note that many states have not adopted any do-not-call rules. The national do-not-call rules will govern exclusively in these states for both intrastate and interstate telephone solicitations. Pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 227(f)(1), all states have the ability to enforce violations of the TCPA, including do-not-call violations, in federal district court. Thus, we conclude that there is no basis for conflict regarding the application of do-not-call rules in those states that have not adopted do-not-call regulations.
59. For those states that have adopted do-not-call regulations, we make the following determinations. First, we conclude that, by operation of general conflict preemption law, the federal rules constitute a floor, and therefore would supersede all less restrictive state do-not-call rules. We believe that any such rules would frustrate Congress' purposes and objectives in promulgating the TCPA. Specifically, application of less restrictive state exemptions directly conflicts with the federal objectives in protecting consumer privacy rights under the TCPA. Thus, telemarketers must comply with the federal do-not-call rules even if the state in which they are telemarketing has adopted an otherwise applicable exemption. Because the TCPA applies to both intrastate and interstate communications, the minimum requirements for compliance are therefore uniform throughout the nation. We believe this resolves any potential confusion for industry and consumers regarding the application of less restrictive state do-not-call rules.
60. Second, pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 227(e)(1), we recognize that states may adopt more restrictive do-not-call laws governing intrastate telemarketing. With limited exceptions, the TCPA specifically prohibits the preemption of any state law that imposes more restrictive intrastate requirements or regulations. Section 227(e)(1) further limits the Commission's ability to preempt any state law that prohibits certain telemarketing activities, including the making of telephone solicitations. This provision is ambiguous, however, as to whether this prohibition applies both to intrastate and interstate calls, and is silent on the issue of whether state law that imposes more restrictive regulations on interstate telemarketing calls may be preempted. We caution that more restrictive state efforts to regulate interstate calling would almost certainly conflict with our rules.
61. We recognize that states traditionally have had jurisdiction over only intrastate calls, while the Commission has had jurisdiction over interstate calls. Here, Congress enacted section 227 and amended section 2(b) to give the Commission jurisdiction over both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. Congress did so based upon the concern that states lack jurisdiction over interstate calls. Although section 227(e) gives states authority to impose more restrictive intrastate regulations, we believe that it was the clear intent of Congress generally to promote a uniform regulatory scheme under which telemarketers would not be subject to multiple, conflicting regulations. We conclude that inconsistent interstate rules frustrate the federal objective of creating uniform national rules, to avoid burdensome compliance costs for telemarketers and potential consumer confusion. The record in this proceeding supports the finding that application of inconsistent rules for those that telemarket on a nationwide or multi-state basis creates a substantial compliance burden for those entities.
62. We therefore believe that any state regulation of interstate telemarketing calls that differs from our rules almost certainly would conflict with and frustrate the federal scheme and almost certainly would be preempted. We will consider any alleged conflicts between state and federal requirements and the need for preemption on a case-by-case basis. Accordingly, any party that believes a state law is inconsistent with section 227 or our rules may seek a declaratory ruling from the Commission. We reiterate the interest in uniformity—as recognized by Congress—and encourage states to avoid subjecting telemarketers to inconsistent rules.
63. National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) contends that states have historically enforced telemarketing laws, including do-not-call rules, within, as well as across, state lines pursuant to “long-arm” statutes. According to NAAG, these state actions have been met with no successful challenges from telemarketers. We note that such “long-arm” statutes may be protected under section 227(f)(6) which provides that “nothing contained in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit an authorized State official from proceeding in State court on the basis of an alleged violation of any general civil or criminal statute of such state.” 47 U.S.C. 227(f)(6). Nothing that we do in this order prohibits states from enforcing state regulations that are consistent with the TCPA and the rules established under this order in state court.
Company Specific Do-Not-Call Lists
Efficacy of the Company-Specific Rules
64. We conclude that retention of the company-specific do-not-call rules will complement the national do-not-call registry by providing consumers with an additional option for managing telemarketing calls. We believe that providing consumers with the ability to tailor their requests not to be called, either on a case-by-case basis under the company do-not-call approach or more broadly under the national registry, will best balance individual privacy rights and legitimate telemarketing practices. As a result, those consumers that wish to prohibit telephone solicitations from only certain marketers will continue to have the option to do so. In addition, consumers registered on the national do-not-call registry will have the opportunity to request that they not be called by entities that would otherwise fall within the established business relationship exemption by using the option to be placed on the company-Start Printed Page 44156specific lists. This finding is consistent with that of the FTC.
65. We agree with those commenters that contend that the company-specific do-not-call approach has not proven ideal as a stand-alone method to protect consumer privacy. In particular, the increase in telemarketing calls over the last decade now places an extraordinary burden on consumers that do not wish to receive telephone solicitations. These consumers must respond on a case-by-case basis to request that they not be called. The record in this proceeding is replete with examples of consumers that receive numerous unwanted telemarketing calls each day. In addition, the widespread use of predictive dialers now results in many “dead air” or hang-up calls in which consumers do not even have the opportunity to make a do-not-call request. Such calls are particularly burdensome for the elderly and disabled consumers. We believe, however, that the measures adopted in this order will enhance the effectiveness of the company-specific list. For example, the adoption of a national do-not-call registry alleviates the concerns of those consumers, including elderly and disabled consumers that may find a case-by-case do-not-call option particularly burdensome. In addition, restrictions on abandoned calls will reduce the number of “dead air” calls. Caller ID requirements will improve the ability of consumers to identify and enforce do-not-call rights against telemarketers. We also note that although many commenters question the effectiveness of the company-specific approach, there is little support in the record to eliminate those rules based on the adoption of the national do-not-call list. We retain the option for consumers to request on a case-by-case basis whether they desire to receive telephone solicitations.
Amendments to the Company-Specific Rules
66. We agree with several industry commenters that the retention period for records of those consumers requesting not to be called should be reduced from the current ten-year requirement to five years. As many commenters note, telephone numbers change hands over time and a shorter retention period will help ensure that only those consumers who have requested not to be called are retained on the list. Both telemarketers and consumers will benefit from a list that more accurately reflects those consumers who have requested not to be called. The FTC has concluded and several commenters in this proceeding agree that five years is a more reasonable period to retain consumer do-not-call requests. We believe a five-year retention period reasonably balances any administrative burden imposed on consumers in requesting not to be called with the interests of telemarketers in contacting consumers. As noted, a shorter retention period increases the accuracy of the database while the national do-not-call option mitigates the burden on those consumers who may believe more frequent company-specific do-not-call requests are overly burdensome. We believe any shorter retention period, as suggested by a few industry commenters, would unduly increase the burdens on consumers who would be forced to make more frequent renewals of their company-specific do-not-call requests without substantially improving the accuracy of the database. We therefore amend our rules to require that a do-not-call request be honored for five years from the time the request is made.
67. We decline at this time to require telemarketers to make available a toll-free number or Web site that would allow consumers to register company-specific do-not-call requests or verify that such a request was made with the marketer. We also decline to require telemarketers to provide a means of confirmation so that consumers may verify their requests have been processed at a later date. Telemarketers should, however, confirm that any such request will be recorded at the time the request is made by the consumer. In addition, consumers calling to register do-not-call requests in response to prerecorded messages should be processed in a timely manner without being placed on hold for unreasonable periods of time. Although we believe the additional measures discussed above would improve the ability of consumers, including consumers with disabilities, to register do-not-call requests, we agree with those commenters that contend that such requirements would be unduly costly to businesses. In particular, we are concerned with the costs imposed on small businesses. The Commission will, however, continue to monitor compliance with our company-specific do-not-call rules and take further action as necessary.
68. We conclude that telemarketers must honor a company-specific do-not-call request within a reasonable time of such request. We disagree, however, with commenters that suggest that periods of up to 90 days are a reasonable time required to process do-not-call requests. Although some administrative time may be necessary to process such requests, this process is now largely automated. As a result, such requests can often be honored within a few days or weeks. Taking into consideration both the large databases of such requests maintained by some entities and the limitations on certain small businesses, we conclude that a reasonable time to honor such requests must not exceed thirty days from the date such a request is made. Consistent with our existing rules, such request applies to all telemarketing campaigns of the seller and any affiliated entities that the consumer reasonably would expect to be included given the identification of the caller and the product being advertised. 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(v). We note that the Commission's rules require that entities must record company-specific do-not-call requests and place the subscriber's telephone number on the do-not-call list at the time the request is made. 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(iii). Therefore, telemarketers with the capability to honor such company-specific do-not-call requests in less than thirty days must do so. We believe this determination adequately balances the privacy interests of those consumers that have requested not to be called with the interests of the telemarketing industry. Consumers expect their requests not to be called to be honored in a timely manner, and thirty days should be the maximum administrative time necessary for telemarketers to process that request.
69. In addition, we decline to extend the company-specific do-not-call rules to entities that solicit contributions on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. The TCPA excludes calls or messages by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from the definition of telephone solicitation. See 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(3)(C). The Commission has clarified that telemarketers who solicit on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not subject to the rules governing telephone solicitations. In the 2002 Notice, the Commission declined to seek further comment on this issue. We acknowledge that this determination creates an inconsistency with the FTC's conclusion to extend its company-specific requirements to entities that solicit contributions on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. The Commission, however, derives its authority to regulate telemarketing from the TCPA, which excludes tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from the definition of telephone solicitation. We therefore decline to extend the company-specific requirements to entities that solicit on behalf of tax-Start Printed Page 44157exempt nonprofit organizations. We note that some tax-exempt nonprofit organizations have determined to honor voluntarily specific do-not-call requests. Other organizations may find it advantageous to follow this example.
70. Finally, to make clear our determination that a company must cease making telemarketing calls to a customer with whom it has an established business relationship when that customer makes a do-not-call request, we amend the company-specific do-not-call rules to apply to any call for telemarketing purposes. We also adopt a provision stating that a consumer's do-not-call request terminates the established business relationship for purposes of telemarketing calls even if the consumer continues to do business with the seller.
Interplay of Sections 222 and 227
71. We first note that the fact that a telecommunications carrier has current CPNI about a particular consumer indicates that the consumer is a customer of that carrier. In that situation, there exists an established business relationship between the customer and the carrier. See 47 CFR 64.1200(f)(4). The established business relationship is an exception to the national do-not-call registry. However, based on the evidence in the record and as supported by numerous commenters, we confirm our tentative conclusion that if a customer places her name on a carrier's do-not-call list, that request must be honored even though the customer may also have provided consent to use her CPNI under section 222. By doing so, we maximize the protections and choices available to consumers, while giving maximum effect to the language of both statutes. At the outset, the average consumer seems rather unlikely to appreciate the interrelationship of the Commission's CPNI and do-not-call rules. Allowing CPNI consent to trump a do-not-call request would, therefore, thwart most consumers' reasonable expectations about how a company-specific do-not-call list functions. Equally important, permitting a consumer's CPNI consent to supercede a consumer's express do-not call request might undermine the carrier's do-not-call database as the first source of information about the consumer's telemarketing preferences.
72. Because we retain the exemption for calls and messages to customers with whom the carrier has an established business relationship, the determination that a customer's CPNI approval does not trump her inclusion on a do-not-call list should have no impact on carriers' ability to communicate with their customers via telemarketing. Carriers will be able to contact customers with whom they have an established business relationship via the telephone, unless the customer has placed her name on the company's do-not-call list; whether the customer has consented to the use of her CPNI does not impact the carrier's ability to contact the customer via telemarketing.
73. We are not persuaded by the arguments of those commenters who urge the Commission to find that CPNI consent should trump a customer's request to be placed on a do-not-call list or similarly, that CPNI consent equates to permission to market “without restriction.” We note that the Concerned Telephone Companies assert that CPNI consent equates to “consent to market without restriction based on [customers'] CPNI.” Concerned Telephone Companies Comments at 2 (emphasis added). The Commission finds no support for this assertion in any Commission order or statutory provision and, we specifically determine that CPNI approval does not equate to unlimited consent to market without restriction.
74. Similarly, a number of commenters argue that a customer's CPNI authorization “covers a number of forms of marketing, including telemarketing.” AT&T Wireless Reply Comments at 26-27. However, such assertions ignore the plain fact that CPNI approval deals specifically with a carrier's use of a customer's personal information, and only indirectly pertains to or arguably “authorizes” marketing to the customer. Do-not-call lists, on the other hand, speak directly to customers' preferences regarding telemarketing contacts. Accordingly, we are convinced that a customer's do-not-call request demonstrates more directly her willingness (or lack thereof) to receive telemarketing calls, as opposed to any indirect inference that can be drawn from her CPNI approval.
75. Additionally, we disagree with those commenters who claim that allowing CPNI approval to trump a consumer's request to be on a national or state do-not-call list gives consumers greater flexibility. A carrier's established business relationship with a customer exempts the carrier from honoring the customer's national do-not-call request. However, as stated above, CPNI consent is not deemed to trump a carrier-specific do-not-call list request. For similar reasons, we decline to make a distinction based on what type of CPNI consent (opt-in versus opt-out) received, as some commenters urge.
76. We do not allow carriers to combine the express written consent to allow them to contact customers on a do-not-call list with the CPNI notice in the manner that AT&T Wireless describes. However, we do allow carriers to combine in the same document CPNI notice with a request for express written consent to call customers on a do-not-call list, provided that such notices and opportunities for consumer consent are separate and distinct. That is, consumers must have distinct choices regarding both whether to allow use of their CPNI and whether to allow calls after registering a do-not-call request, but carriers may combine those requests for approval in the same notice document. Finally, we find a distinction based on the type of CPNI consent unnecessary here, as carriers can avail themselves of the established business relationship exception to contact their existing customers, irrespective of the type of CPNI consent obtained.
77. Similarly, we agree with those commenters who advise against using a time element to determine whether a customer's do-not-call request takes precedence over the customer's opt-in approval to use her CPNI, because adding a time element would unnecessarily complicate carrier compliance and allow carriers to game the system. In particular, the New York State Consumer Protection Board (NYSCPB) argues that “enrollment on a national do-not-call list should take precedence over the prior implied consent through the ‘opt-out’ procedure, but that the latest in time should prevail regarding ‘opt-in’ consents.” NYSCPB Comments at 5. Because we determine that carriers can contact consumers with whom they have established business relationships, irrespective of those consumers' CPNI preferences, we find this proposed methodology unnecessary in determining whether a customer's CPNI consent should trump her do-not-call request. Additionally, we note that this proposal could be manipulated by carriers to overcome consumers' do-not-call preferences, by allowing carriers to send CPNI notices to customers that are intentionally timed to “overcome” previously expressed do-not-call requests.
78. Finally, although it was not directly raised in the 2002 Notice, some commenters raised the issue of whether any type of do-not-call request revokes or limits a carrier's ability to use CPNI in a manner other than telemarketing. To the degree such affirmation is necessary, we agree with those commenters who maintain that a carrier's ability to use CPNI is not impacted by a customer's inclusion on a do-not-call list, except as noted. Start Printed Page 44158
79. Constitutional Implications. We disagree with those commenters who argue that our decision that a customer's CPNI approval does not trump her request to be on a do-not-call list violates the First Amendment rights of carriers and customers. Commenters cite no authority to support their arguments, and we do not believe the fact that customers have given their approval for carriers to use their CPNI implicates any additional First Amendment issues beyond those discussed. Accordingly, we find our rules implementing the do-not-call registry are consistent with the First Amendment as applied to any consumer, including those who have previously given their approval to carriers to use their CPNI, pursuant to section 222. Furthermore, we believe that the exception which allows carriers to call consumers with whom they necessarily have an established business relationship renders commenters' arguments moot, as carriers necessarily have an established business relationship with any customer from whom they solicit CPNI approval.
Established Business Relationship
80. We conclude that, based on the record, an established business relationship exemption is necessary to allow companies to communicate with their existing customers. The “established business relationship,” or EBR, permits telemarketers to call consumers registered on the national do-not-call list and to deliver prerecorded messages to consumers. The “established business relationship,” however, is not an exception to the company-specific do-not-call rules. Companies that call their EBR customers must maintain company-specific do-not-call lists and record any do-not-call requests as required by amended 47 CFR 64.1200(d). The Commission has also reversed its prior conclusion that an “established business relationship” provides the necessary permission to deliver unsolicited facsimile advertisements. Companies maintain that the exemption allows them to make new offers to existing customers, such as mortgage refinancing, insurance updates, and subscription renewals. They suggest that customers benefit from calls that inform them in a timely manner of new products, services and pricing plans. American Express contends that its financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to their customers, requiring them to contact customers with time-sensitive information. We are persuaded that eliminating this EBR exemption would possibly interfere with these types of business relationships. Moreover, the exemption focuses on the relationship between the sender of the message and the consumer, rather than on the content of the message. It appears that consumers have come to expect calls from companies with whom they have such a relationship, and that, under certain circumstances, they may be willing to accept these calls. Finally, we believe that while consumers may find prerecorded voice messages intrusive, such messages do not necessarily impose the same costs on the recipients as, for example, unsolicited facsimile messages. Therefore, we retain the exemption for established business relationship calls from the ban on prerecorded messages. Telemarketers that claim their prerecorded messages are delivered pursuant to an established business relationship must be prepared to provide clear and convincing evidence of the existence of such a relationship.
Definition of Established Business Relationship
81. We conclude that the Commission's current definition of “established business relationship” should be revised. We are convinced that consumers are confused and even frustrated more often when they receive calls from companies they have not contacted or done business with for many years. The legislative history suggests that it was Congress's view that the relationship giving a company the right to call becomes more tenuous over time. In addition, we believe that this is an area where consistency between the FCC rules and FTC rules is critical for both consumers and telemarketers. We conclude that, based on the range of suggested time periods that would meet the needs of industry, along with consumers' reasonable expectations of who may call them and when, eighteen (18) months strikes an appropriate balance between industry practices and consumers' privacy interests. Therefore, the Commission has modified the definition of established business relationship to mean:
A prior or existing relationship formed by a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity and a residential subscriber with or without an exchange of consideration, on the basis of the subscriber's purchase or transaction with the entity within the eighteen (18) months immediately preceding the date of the telephone call or on the basis of the subscriber's inquiry or application regarding products or services offered by the entity within the three (3) months immediately preceding the date of the call, which relationship has not been previously terminated by either party.
See amended 47 CFR 64.1200(f)(3). The 18-month time period runs from the date of the last payment or transaction with the company, making it more likely that a consumer would expect a call from a company with which they have recently conducted business. The amended definition permits the relationship, once begun, to exist for eighteen (18) months in the case of purchases or transactions and three (3) months in the case of inquiries or applications, unless the consumer or the company “terminates” it. We emphasize here that the termination of an established business relationship is significant only in the context of solicitation calls. We also note that the act of “terminating” an established business relationship will not hinder or thwart creditors' attempts to reach debtors by telephone, to the extent that debt collection calls constitute neither telephone solicitations nor include unsolicited advertisements. Therefore, consistent with the language in the definition, a company's prior relationship with a consumer entitles the company to call that consumer for eighteen (18) months from the date of the last payment or financial transaction, even if the company does not currently provide service to that customer. For example, a consumer who once had telephone service with a particular carrier or a subscription with a particular newspaper could expect to receive a call from those entities in an effort to “win back” or “renew” that consumer's business within eighteen (18) months. In the context of telemarketing calls, a consumer's “prior or existing relationship” continues for eighteen (18) months (3 months in the case of inquiries and applications) or until the customer asks to be placed on that company's do-not-call list.
82. Inquiries. The Commission asked whether we should clarify the type of consumer inquiry that would create an “established business relationship” for purposes of the exemption. Some consumers and consumer groups maintain that a consumer who merely inquires about a product should not be subjected to subsequent telemarketing calls. Industry commenters, on the other hand, believe that companies should be permitted to call consumers who have made inquiries about their products and services, and that consumers have come to expect such calls. The legislative history suggests that Congress contemplated that an inquiry by a consumer could be the basis of an established business relationship, but that such an inquiry should occur within a reasonable period of time. Start Printed Page 44159While we do not believe any communication would amount to an established business relationship for purposes of telemarketing calls, we do not think the definition should be narrowed to only include situations where a purchase or transaction is completed. The nature of any inquiry must, however, be such to create an expectation on the part of the consumer that a particular company will call them. As confirmed by several industry commenters, an inquiry regarding a business's hours or location would not establish the necessary relationship as defined in Commission rules. By making an inquiry or submitting an application regarding a company's products or services, a consumer might reasonably expect a prompt follow-up telephone call regarding the initial inquiry or application, not one after an extended period of time. Consistent with the FTC's conclusion, the Commission believes three months should be a reasonable time in which to respond to a consumer's inquiry or application. Thus, we amend the definition of “established business relationship” to permit telemarketing calls within three (3) months of an inquiry or application regarding a product or service offered by the company.
83. We emphasize here that the definition of “established business relationship” requires a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity and a residential subscriber regarding a purchase or transaction made within eighteen (18) months of the date of the telemarketing call or regarding an inquiry or application within three (3) months of the date of the call. Any seller or telemarketer using the EBR as the basis for a telemarketing call must be able to demonstrate, with clear and convincing evidence, that they have an EBR with the called party.
84. Different Products and Services. The Commission also invited comment on whether to consider modifying the definition of “established business relationship” so that a company that has a relationship with a customer based on one type of product or service may not call consumers on the do-not-call list to advertise a different service or product. Industry commenters believe an EBR with a consumer should not be restricted by product or service, but rather, should permit them to offer the full range of their services and products. Consumer advocates who commented on the issue maintain that a company that has a relationship based on one service or product should not be allowed to use that relationship to market a different service or product. The Commission agrees with the majority of industry commenters that the EBR should not be limited by product or service. In today's market, many companies offer a wide variety of services and products. Restricting the EBR by product or service could interfere with companies' abilities to market them efficiently. Many telecommunications and cable companies, for example, market products and services in packages. As long as the company identifies itself adequately, a consumer should not be surprised to receive a telemarketing call from that company, regardless of the product being offered. If the consumer does not want any further calls from that company, he or she may request placement on its do-not-call list.
85. Affiliated Entities. In the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, CC Docket No. 92-90, Report and Order, 7 FCC Rcd 8752 (1992) (1992 TCPA Order), the Commission found that a consumer's established business relationship with one company may also extend to the company's affiliates and subsidiaries. See 1992 TCPA Order, 7 FCC Rcd at 8770-71, para. 34. Consumer advocates maintain that the EBR exemption should not automatically extend to affiliates of the company with whom a consumer has a business relationship. Industry members argue that it should apply to affiliates that provide reasonably-related products or services. The Commission finds that, consistent with the FTC's amended Rule, affiliates fall within the established business relationship exemption only if the consumer would reasonably expect them to be included given the nature and type of goods or services offered and the identity of the affiliate. This definition offers flexibility to companies whose subsidiaries or affiliates also make telephone solicitations, but it is based on consumers' reasonable expectations of which companies will call them. As the American Teleservices Association (ATA) and other commenters explain, consumers often welcome calls from businesses they know. A call from a company with which a consumer has not formed a business relationship directly, or does not recognize by name, would likely be a surprise and possibly an annoyance. This determination is also consistent with current Commission rules on the applicability of do-not-call requests made to affiliated persons or entities. Under those rules, a residential subscriber's do-not-call request will not apply to affiliated entities unless the consumer reasonably would expect them to be included given the identification of the caller and the product advertised. See 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(v).
86. Other Issues. The Commission clarifies that the established business relationship exemption does not permit companies to make calls based on referrals from existing customers and clients, as the person referred presumably does not have the required business relationship with the company that received the referral. An EBR is similarly not formed when a wireless subscriber happens to use another carrier's services through roaming. In such a situation, the consumer has not made the necessary purchase or inquiry that would constitute an EBR or provided prior express consent to receive telemarketing calls from that company. We recognize that companies often hire third party telemarketers to market their services and products. In general, those telemarketers may rely on the seller's EBR to call an individual consumer to market the seller's services and products. However, we disagree with Nextel that a consumer's EBR with a third party telemarketer, including a retail store or independent dealer, extends to a seller simply because the seller has a contractual relationship with that telemarketer. The seller would only be entitled to call a consumer under the EBR exemption based on its own EBR with a consumer. We also disagree with WorldCom, Inc. (WorldCom) that the EBR should extend to marketing partners for purposes of telemarketing joint offers, to the extent the “partner” companies have no EBR with the consumer.
Telecommunications Common Carriers
87. In the 2002 Notice, we asked what effect the established business relationship exemption might have on the telecommunications industry, if a national do-not-call list is established. According to WorldCom, telephone solicitations are the primary mechanism for, and the means by which consumers are accustomed to, purchasing competitive telecommunications services. WorldCom argues that with the advent of competition in the formerly monopolized local telephone markets, and the entry of the Regional Bell Operating Companies into the long distance market, carriers need to be able to market effectively their new services. WorldCom argues that a national do-not-call list that exempts calls to persons with whom a company has established business relationships will favor incumbent providers. According to WorldCom, incumbent local exchange carriers maintain most of the Start Printed Page 44160local customer base, and therefore would be able to telemarket new services to all those customers, regardless of whether they were on the national do-not-call registry, because of the established business relationship exemption. New competitors, on the other hand, would be restricted from calling those same consumers.
88. One approach would be to narrow the “established business relationship” for telecommunications carriers, so that a carrier doing business with customers based on one type of service may not call those customers registered with the national do-not-call list to advertise a different service. We find, however, that the record does not support such an approach in the context of telemarketing calls. Along with the majority of industry commenters in this proceeding, WorldCom maintains that companies “must have flexibility in communicating with their customers not only about their current services, but also to discuss available alternative services or products. * * * ” WorldCom Comments at 15. Limiting a common carrier's “established business relationship” by product or service might harm competitors” efforts to market new goods or services to existing customers, and would not be in the public interest.
89. WorldCom proposes instead that the Commission revise the definition of established business relationship so that all providers of a telecommunications service—incumbents and new entrants alike—are deemed to have an established business relationship with all consumers. Alternatively, WorldCom suggests that the definition of an established business relationship be revised to exclude a company whose relationship with a consumer is based solely on a service for which the company has been a dominant or monopoly provider of the service, until such time as competitors for that service have sufficiently penetrated the market.
90. Although we take seriously WorldCom's concerns about the potential effects of a national do-not-call list on competition in the telecommunications marketplace, we decline to expand the definition of “established business relationship” so that common carriers are deemed to have relationships with all consumers for purposes of making telemarketing calls. Broadening the scope of the established business relationship in such a way would be inconsistent with Congress's mandate “to protect residential telephone subscribers' privacy rights to avoid receiving telephone solicitations to which they object.” See 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(1). To permit common carriers to call consumers with whom they have no existing relationships and who have expressed a desire not to be called by registering with the national do-not-call list, would likely confuse consumers and interfere with their ability to manage and monitor the telemarketing calls they receive.
91. We further note that with the establishment of a national do-not-call registry, carriers will still be permitted to contact competitors' customers who have not placed their numbers on the national list. In addition, carriers will be able to call their prior and existing customers for 18 months to market new products and services, such as long distance, local, or DSL services, as long as those customers have not placed themselves on that carrier's company-specific do-not-call list. For the remaining consumers with whom common carriers have no established business relationship and who are registered with the do-not-call list, carriers may market to them using different advertising methods, such as direct mail. Therefore, we find that treating common carriers like other entities that use the telephone to advertise, best furthers the goals of the TCPA to protect consumer privacy interests and to avoid interfering with existing business relationships.
Interplay Between Established Business Relationship and Do-Not-Call Request
92. In the 2002 Notice, we sought comment on the effect of a do-not-call request on an established business relationship. We noted the legislative history on this issue, which suggests that despite an established business relationship, a company that has been asked by a consumer not to call again, must honor that request and avoid further calls to that consumer. Consumer advocates who discussed the interplay between the established business relationship and a do-not-call request maintained that a do-not-call request should “trump” an established business relationship, and that consumers should not be required to terminate business relationships in order to stop unwanted telemarketing calls. The majority of industry commenters also supported the notion that companies should honor requests from individual consumers not to be called, regardless of whether there is a business relationship. Companies will be permitted to call consumers with whom they have an established business relationship for a period of 18 months from the last payment or transaction, even when those consumers are registered on the national do-not-call list, as long as a consumer has not asked to be placed on the company's do-not-call list. Once the consumer asks to be placed on the company-specific do-not-call list, the company may not call the consumer again regardless of whether the consumer continues to do business with the company. This will apply to all services and products offered by that company. If the consumer continues to do business with the telemarketer after asking not to be called (by, for example, continuing to hold a credit card, subscribing to a newspaper, or making a subsequent purchase), the consumer cannot be deemed to have waived his or her company-specific do-not-call request. In some instances, however, a consumer may grant explicit consent to be called during the course of a subsequent purchase or transaction. We amend the company-specific do-not-call rules to apply to “any call for telemarketing purposes” to make clear that a company must cease making telemarketing calls to any customer who has made a do-not-call request, regardless of whether they have an EBR with that customer. We also adopt a provision stating that a consumer's do-not-call request terminates the EBR for purposes of telemarketing calls even if the consumer continues to do business with the seller.
Tax-Exempt Nonprofit Organization Exemption
93. We reaffirm the determination that calls made by a for-profit telemarketer hired to solicit the purchase of goods or services or donations on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization are exempted from the rules on telephone solicitation. We again reiterate that calls that do not fall within the definition of “telephone solicitation” as defined in 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(3) will not be precluded by the national do-not-call list. These may include calls regarding surveys, market research, and calls involving political and religious discourse. In crafting the TCPA, Congress sought primarily to protect telephone subscribers from unrestricted commercial telemarketing activities, finding that most unwanted telephone solicitations are commercial in nature. In light of the record before us, the Commission believes that there has been no change in circumstances that warrant distinguishing those calls made by a professional telemarketer on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization from those made by the tax-exempt nonprofit itself. The Commission recognizes that charitable and other nonprofit entities with limited expertise, resources and infrastructure, might find it advantageous to contract out its Start Printed Page 44161fundraising efforts. Consistent with section 227, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that conducts its own fundraising campaign or hires a professional fundraiser to do it, will not be subject to the restrictions on telephone solicitations. If, however, a for-profit organization is delivering its own commercial message as part of a telemarketing campaign (i.e., encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services), even if accompanied by a donation to a charitable organization or referral to a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, that call is not by or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Such calls, whether made by a live telemarketer or using a prerecorded message, would not be entitled to exempt treatment under the TCPA. Similarly, an affiliate of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that is itself not a tax-exempt nonprofit is not exempt from the TCPA rules when it makes telephone solicitations. We emphasize here, as we did in the 2002 Notice, that the statute and our rules clearly apply already to messages that are predominantly commercial in nature, and that we will not hesitate to consider enforcement action should the provider of an otherwise commercial message seek to immunize itself by simply inserting purportedly “non-commercial” content into that message. A call to sell debt consolidation services, for example, is a commercial call regardless of whether the consumer is also referred to a tax-exempt nonprofit organization for counseling services. Similarly, a seller that calls to advertise a product and states that a portion of the proceeds will go to a charitable cause or to help find missing children must still comply with the TCPA rules on commercial calls.
Automated Telephone Dialing Equipment
94. Automated Telephone Dialing Equipment. The record demonstrates that a predictive dialer is equipment that dials numbers and, when certain computer software is attached, also assists telemarketers in predicting when a sales agent will be available to take calls. The hardware, when paired with certain software, has the capacity to store or produce numbers and dial those numbers at random, in sequential order, or from a database of numbers. As commenters point out, in most cases, telemarketers program the numbers to be called into the equipment, and the dialer calls them at a rate to ensure that when a consumer answers the phone, a sales person is available to take the call. The principal feature of predictive dialing software is a timing function, not number storage or generation. Household Financial Services states that these machines are not conceptually different from dialing machines without the predictive computer program attached.
95. The TCPA defines an “automatic telephone dialing system” as “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.” 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(1). The statutory definition contemplates autodialing equipment that either stores or produces numbers. It also provides that, in order to be considered an “automatic telephone dialing system,” the equipment need only have the “capacity to store or produce telephone numbers (emphasis added) * * *.” It is clear from the statutory language and the legislative history that Congress anticipated that the FCC, under its TCPA rulemaking authority, might need to consider changes in technologies. In the past, telemarketers may have used dialing equipment to create and dial 10-digit telephone numbers arbitrarily. As one commenter points out, the evolution of the teleservices industry has progressed to the point where using lists of numbers is far more cost effective. The basic function of such equipment, however, has not changed—the capacity to dial numbers without human intervention. We fully expect automated dialing technology to continue to develop.
96. The legislative history also suggests that through the TCPA, Congress was attempting to alleviate a particular problem—an increasing number of automated and prerecorded calls to certain categories of numbers. The TCPA does not ban the use of technologies to dial telephone numbers. It merely prohibits such technologies from dialing emergency numbers, health care facilities, telephone numbers assigned to wireless services, and any other numbers for which the consumer is charged for the call. Such practices were determined to threaten public safety and inappropriately shift marketing costs from sellers to consumers. Coupled with the fact that autodialers can dial thousands of numbers in a short period of time, calls to these specified categories of numbers are particularly troublesome. Therefore, to exclude from these restrictions equipment that use predictive dialing software from the definition of “automated telephone dialing equipment” simply because it relies on a given set of numbers would lead to an unintended result. Calls to emergency numbers, health care facilities, and wireless numbers would be permissible when the dialing equipment is paired with predictive dialing software and a database of numbers, but prohibited when the equipment operates independently of such lists and software packages. We believe the purpose of the requirement that equipment have the “capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called” is to ensure that the prohibition on autodialed calls not be circumvented. See 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(1). Therefore, the Commission finds that a predictive dialer falls within the meaning and statutory definition of “automatic telephone dialing equipment” and the intent of Congress. Because the statutory definition does not turn on whether the call is made for marketing purposes, we also conclude that it applies to modems that have 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.” See 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(1).
97. Predictive Dialers as Customer Premises Equipment. A few commenters maintain that predictive dialers are Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) over which the Communications Act gives the FCC exclusive jurisdiction. The ATA and Direct Marketing Association (DMA) urge the Commission to assert exclusive authority over CPE and, in the process, preempt state laws governing predictive dialers. They contend that, in the absence of a single national policy on predictive dialer use, telemarketers will be subject to the possibility of conflicting state standards. In the past, CPE was regulated as a common carrier service based on the Commission's jurisdiction and statutory responsibilities over carrier-provided equipment. The Commission long ago deregulated CPE, finding that the CPE market was becoming increasingly competitive, and that in order to increase further the options that consumers had in obtaining equipment, it would require common carriers to separate the provision of CPE from the provision of telecommunications services. As part of its review of CPE regulations, the Commission pointed out that it had never regarded the provision of terminal equipment in isolation as an activity subject to Title II regulation. While the Commission recognized that such equipment is within the FCC's authority over wire and radio communications, it found that the equipment, by itself, is not a Start Printed Page 44162“communication” service, and therefore there was no mandate that it be regulated. None of the commenters who argue this point describe a change in circumstances that would warrant reevaluating the Commission's earlier determination and risk disturbing the competitive balance the Commission deemed appropriate in 1980. In addition, it is not the equipment itself that states are considering regulating; it is the use of such equipment that has caught the attention of some state legislatures. We believe it is preferable at this time to regulate the use of predictive dialers under the TCPA's specific authority to regulate telemarketing practices. Therefore, we decline to preempt state laws governing the use of predictive dialers and abandoned calls or to regulate predictive dialers as CPE.
98. In the 2002 Notice, the Commission sought comment on the practice of using autodialers to dial large blocks of telephone numbers in order to identify lines that belong to telephone facsimile machines. Of those commenters who weighed in on “war dialing” (using automated equipment to dial telephone numbers, generally sequentially, and software to determine whether each number is associated with a fax line or voice line), there was unanimous support for a ban on the practice. Commenters explained that ringing a telephone for the purpose of determining whether the number is associated with a fax or voice line is an invasion of consumers' privacy interests and should be prohibited. Moreover, they asserted there is no free speech issue when the caller has no intention of speaking with the called party. The TCPA prohibits the transmission of unsolicited facsimile advertisements absent the consent of the recipient. The Commission agrees that because the purpose of “war dialing” is to identify those numbers associated with facsimile machines, the practice serves few, if any, legitimate business interests and is an intrusive invasion of consumers' privacy. Therefore, the Commission adopts a rule that prohibits the practice of using any technology to dial any telephone number for the purpose of determining whether the line is a fax or voice line.
Artificial or Prerecorded Voice Messages
Offers for Free Goods or Services; Information-Only Messages
99. Congress found that “residential telephone subscribers consider automated or prerecorded telephone calls * * * to be a nuisance and an invasion of privacy.” TCPA, Section 2(10), reprinted in 7 FCC Rcd at 2744. It also found that “[b]anning such automated or prerecorded telephone calls to the home, except when the receiving party consents to receiving the call or when such calls are necessary in an emergency situation affecting the health and safety of the consumer, is the only effective means of protecting telephone consumers from this nuisance and privacy invasion.” TCPA, Section 2(12), reprinted in 7 FCC Rcd at 2744-45. Congress determined that such prerecorded messages cause greater harm to consumers' privacy than telephone solicitations by live telemarketers. The record reveals that consumers feel powerless to stop prerecorded messages largely because they are often delivered to answering machines and because they do not always provide a means to request placement on a do-not-call list.
100. Additionally, the term “unsolicited advertisement” means “any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person's prior express invitation or permission.” 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(4); 47 CFR 64.1200(f)(5). The TCPA's definition does not require a sale to be made during the call in order for the message to be considered an advertisement. Offers for free goods or services that are part of an overall marketing campaign to sell property, goods, or services constitute “advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services.” See 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(4). Therefore, the Commission finds that prerecorded messages containing free offers and information about goods and services that are commercially available are prohibited to residential telephone subscribers, if not otherwise exempted. For example, a prerecorded message that contains language describing a new product, a vacation destination, or a company that will be in “your area” to perform home repairs, and asks the consumer to call a toll-free number to “learn more,” is an “unsolicited advertisement” under the TCPA if sent without the called party's express invitation or permission. See 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(4). However, as long as the message is limited to identification information only, such as name and telephone number, it will not be considered an “unsolicited advertisement” under our rules.
101. In addition, we amend the prerecorded message rule at 47 CFR 64.1200(c)(2) so that the prohibition expressly applies to messages that constitute “telephone solicitations,” as well as to those that include or introduce an “unsolicited advertisement.” The current rule exempts from the prohibition any call that is made for a commercial purpose but does not include the transmission of any unsolicited advertisement. See 47 CFR 64.1200(c)(2). We amend the rule to exempt a call that is made for a commercial purpose but does not include or introduce an unsolicited advertisement or constitute a telephone solicitation. See amended rule at 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(2)(iii). We agree with those commenters who suggest that application of the prerecorded message rule should turn, not on the caller's characterization of the call, but on the purpose of the message. Amending the rule to apply to messages that constitute “telephone solicitations,” is consistent with the goals of the TCPA and addresses the concerns raised by commenters about purported “free offers.” In addition, we believe the amended rule will afford consumers a greater measure of protection from unlawful prerecorded messages and better inform the business community about the general prohibition on such messages.
102. The so-called “dual purpose” calls described in the record—calls from mortgage brokers to their clients notifying them of lower interest rates, calls from phone companies to customers regarding new calling plans, or calls from credit card companies offering overdraft protection to existing customers—would, in most instances, constitute “unsolicited advertisements,” regardless of the customer service element to the call. The Commission explained in the 2002 Notice that such messages may inquire about a customer's satisfaction with a product already purchased, but are motivated in part by the desire to sell ultimately additional goods or services. If the call is intended to offer property, goods, or services for sale either during the call, or in the future (such as in response to a message that provides a toll-free number), that call is an advertisement. Similarly, a message that seeks people to help sell or market a business' products, constitutes an advertisement if the individuals called are encouraged to purchase, rent, or invest in property, goods, or services, during or after the call. However, the Commission points out that, if the message is delivered by a company that has an established business relationship with the recipient, it would be permitted under our rules. Start Printed Page 44163We also note that absent an established business relationship, the telemarketer must first obtain the prior express consent of the called party in order to lawfully initiate the call. Purporting to obtain consent during the call, such as requesting that a consumer “press 1” to receive further information, does not constitute the prior consent necessary to deliver the message in the first place, as the request to “press 1” is part of the telemarketing call.
103. The TCPA rules require that all artificial or prerecorded messages delivered by an automatic telephone dialing system identify the business, individual, or other entity initiating the call, and the telephone number or address of such business, individual or other entity. See 47 CFR 64.1200(d). Additionally, the Commission's rules contain identification requirements that apply without limitation to “any telephone solicitation to a residential telephone subscriber.” 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(2)(iv). The term “telephone solicitation” is defined to mean “the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of * * * property, goods, or services * * *” (emphasis added). 47 CFR 64.1200(f)(3). We sought comment, however, on whether we should modify our rules to state expressly that the identification requirements apply to otherwise lawful artificial or prerecorded messages, as well as to live solicitation calls.
104. The vast majority of consumer and industry commenters support modifying the rules to provide expressly that telemarketers must comply with the identification requirements when delivering prerecorded messages. Some consumers urge the Commission to require specifically that companies provide the name of the company under which it is registered to do business. They explain that a company will often use a “d/b/a” (“doing business as”) or “alias” in the text of the prerecorded message, making it difficult to identify the company calling. The Commission recognizes that adequate identification information is vital so that consumers can determine the purpose of the call, possibly make a do-not-call request, and monitor compliance with the TCPA rules. Therefore, we are amending our rules to require expressly that all prerecorded messages, whether delivered by automated dialing equipment or not, identify the name of the business, individual or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call, along with the telephone number of such business, other entity, or individual. With respect to the caller's name, the prerecorded message must contain, at a minimum, the legal name under which the business, individual or entity calling is registered to operate. The Commission recognizes that some businesses use “d/b/as” or aliases for marketing purposes. The rule does not prohibit the use of such additional information, provided the legal name of the business is also stated. The rule also requires that the telephone number stated in the message be one that a consumer can use during normal business hours to ask not to be called again. If the number provided in the message is that of a telemarketer hired to deliver the message, the company on whose behalf the message is sent is nevertheless liable for failing to honor any do-not-call request. This is consistent with the rules on live solicitation calls by telemarketers. If a consumer asks not to be called again, the telemarketer must record the do-not-call request, and the company on whose behalf the call was made must honor that request.
Radio Station and Television Broadcaster Calls
105. The TCPA prohibits the delivery of prerecorded messages to residential telephone lines without the prior express consent of the called party. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(B). Commission rules exempt from the prohibition calls that are made for a commercial purpose but do not include any unsolicited advertisement. 47 CFR 64.1200(c)(2). The Commission sought comment on prerecorded messages sent by radio stations or television broadcasters that encourage telephone subscribers to tune in at a particular time for a chance to win a prize or similar opportunity. We asked whether the Commission should specifically address these kinds of calls, and if so, how. The record reveals that such calls by radio stations and television broadcasters do not at this time warrant the adoption of new rules. Few commenters in this proceeding described either receiving such messages or that they were particularly problematic. The few commenters who addressed the issue were split on whether such messages fall within the TCPA's definition of “unsolicited advertisement” and are thus subject to the restrictions on their delivery. We conclude that if the purpose of the message is merely to invite a consumer to listen to or view a broadcast, such message is permitted under the current rules as a commercial call that “does not include the transmission of any unsolicited advertisement” and under the amended rules as “a commercial call that does not include or introduce an unsolicited advertisement or constitute a telephone solicitation.” See amended 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(2)(iii). However, messages that encourage consumers to listen to or watch programming, including programming that is retransmitted broadcast programming for which consumers must pay (e.g., cable, digital satellite, etc.), would be considered advertisements for purposes of our rules. The Commission reiterates, however, that messages that are part of an overall marketing campaign to encourage the purchase of goods or services or that describe the commercial availability or quality of any goods or services, are “advertisements” as defined by the TCPA. Messages need not contain a solicitation of a sale during the call to constitute an advertisement.
106. Given the arguments raised on both sides of this issue as well as the FTC's approach to the problem, the Commission has determined to adopt a rule to reduce the number of abandoned calls consumers receive. Under the new rules, telemarketers must ensure that any technology used to dial telephone numbers abandons no more than three (3) percent of calls answered by a person, measured over a 30-day period. A call will be considered abandoned if it is not transferred to a live sales agent within two (2) seconds of the recipient's completed greeting. When a call is abandoned within the three (3) percent maximum allowed, a telemarketer must deliver a prerecorded identification message containing only the telemarketer's name, telephone number, and notification that the call is for “telemarketing purposes.” To allow time for a consumer to answer the phone, the telemarketer must allow the phone to ring for fifteen seconds or four rings before disconnecting any unanswered call. Finally, telemarketers Start Printed Page 44164using predictive dialers must maintain records that provide clear and convincing evidence that the dialers used comply with the three (3) percent call abandonment rate, “ring time” and two-second-transfer rule.
Maximum Rate on Abandoned Calls
107. The Commission believes that establishing a maximum call abandonment rate is the best option to reduce effectively the number of hang-ups and “dead air” calls consumers experience. We recognize that industry generally advocates a five percent abandonment rate, claiming that a rate lower than five percent would reduce efficiencies the technology provides. Some industry commenters indicate that a 3 percent rate still obtains productivity benefits. However, the Commission is not convinced that a five percent rate will lead to a reasonable reduction in the number of abandoned calls. The DMA's current guideline, cited by many commenters, calls for an abandonment rate of no higher than five percent. And several telemarketers maintain that they now utilize an abandonment rate of five percent or lower in their calling campaigns. Consumers nevertheless report receiving as many as 20 dropped calls per day that interrupt dinners, interfere with home business operations, and sometimes frighten the elderly and parents with young children. A rule that is consistent with the FTC's will effectively create a national standard with which telemarketers must comply and should lead to fewer abandoned calls, while permitting telemarketers to continue to benefit from such technology. It is also responsive to Congress' mandate in the Do-Not-Call Act to maximize consistency with the FTC's rules.
108. The three percent abandonment rate will be measured over a 30-day period, a standard supported by several industry commenters. Industry members maintain that measuring the abandonment rate on a per day basis would severely curtail the efficiencies gained from the use of predictive dialers, and may be overly burdensome to smaller telemarketers. A per day measurement, they argue, would not account for short-term fluctuations in marketing campaigns. They further argue that the impact of abandoned calls on consumers depends more on the aggregate number of contacts made by a telemarketer over time and not on the number in any given day. The Commission believes that a three (3) percent abandonment rate measured over a 30-day period will ensure that consumers consistently receive fewer disconnected calls, and that telemarketers are permitted to manage their calling campaigns effectively under the new rules on abandoned calls. Although we recognize that this rate of measurement differs from the FTC's rule, we believe a rate measured over a longer period of time will allow for variations in telemarketing campaigns such as calling times, number of operators available, number of telephone lines used by the call centers, and other similar factors. The record also suggests that an abandonment rate measured over a 30-day period will allow telemarketers to more easily comply with the recordkeeping requirements associated with the use of predictive dialers.
109. The record confirms that many consumers are angered by the “dead air” they often face when answering the telephone. Running to the telephone only to be met by silence can be frustrating and even frightening, if the caller cannot be identified. To address the problem of “dead air” produced by dialing technologies, the Commission has determined that a call will be considered abandoned if the telemarketer fails to connect the call to a sales representative within two (2) seconds of the person's completed greeting. Calls disconnected because they were never answered (within the required 15 seconds or 4 rings) or because they received busy signals will not be considered abandoned. Calls that reach voicemail or an answering machine will not be considered “answered” by the called party. Therefore, a call that is disconnected upon reaching an answering machine will not be considered an abandoned call. This requirement is consistent with the FTC's rule.
110. Answering Machine Detection. Opposition from industry to the two-second-transfer requirement appears to be based largely on its implications for use of Answering Machine Detection (AMD). Some industry members explain that AMD is used by telemarketers to detect answering machines, and thereby avoid leaving messages on them. The ATA and DMA maintain that if telemarketers are required to connect to a sales agent or message within 1-2 seconds, a large percentage of calls reaching answering machines will be transferred to sales agents, thereby reducing the efficiencies gained from AMD. According to these commenters, 1-2 seconds is often insufficient for AMD to determine accurately if the call has reached an answering machine. Other commenters explain that AMD is used instead by telemarketers to transmit prerecorded messages to answering machines; in such circumstances, calls that reach live persons are disconnected. It is unclear from the record how prevalent the use of AMD is in the telemarketing industry. One commenter stated that the elimination of AMD would put “consumer-oriented” telemarketing firms out of business. However, other industry members acknowledge that AMD contributes significantly to the amount of “dead air” consumers experience, and one large telemarketing firm maintains that AMD should be banned completely. The Commission believes that the record does not warrant a ban on the use of AMD. Instead, if the AMD technology is deployed in such a way that the delay in transfer time to a sales agent is limited to two seconds, then its continued use should not adversely affect consumers' privacy interests.
Prerecorded Message for Identification
111. The FTC's “safe harbor” provisions require that, when a sales agent is unavailable to speak to a person answering the phone, marketers deliver a prerecorded message that states the name and telephone number of the seller on whose behalf the call was made. The Commission has similarly determined that when a telemarketer abandons a call under the three (3) percent rate allowed, the telemarketer must deliver a prerecorded message containing the name of the business, individual or other entity initiating the call, as well as the telephone number of such business, individual or other entity. The message must also state that the call is for “telemarketing purposes.” By requiring such notice, we believe consumers will be less likely to return the call simply to learn the purpose of the call and possibly incur unnecessary charges. We recognize that many consumers are frustrated with prerecorded messages. However, the record also reveals that consumers are frightened and angered by “dead air” calls and repeated hang-ups. A prerecorded message, limited to identification information only, should mitigate the harms that result from “dead air,” as consumers will know who is calling them. And, they will more easily be able to make a do-not-call request of a company by calling the number provided in the message. We note that such messages sent in excess of the three (3) percent allowed under the call abandonment rate, will be considered abandoned calls, unless otherwise permitted by our rules. The content of the message must be limited Start Printed Page 44165to name and telephone number, along with a notice to the called party that the call is for “telemarketing purposes.” The message may not be used to deliver an unsolicited advertisement. As long as the message is limited to identification information only, it will not be considered an “unsolicited advertisement” under our rules. We caution that additional information in the prerecorded message constituting an unsolicited advertisement would be a violation of our rules, if not otherwise permitted under 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(2).
Established Business Relationship
112. While the TCPA prohibits telephone calls to residential phone lines using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, the Commission determined that the TCPA permits an exemption for established business relationship calls from the restriction on artificial or prerecorded message calls to residences. The record reveals that an established business relationship exemption is necessary to allow companies to contact their existing customers. Companies currently use prerecorded messages, for example, to notify their customers about new calling plans, new mortgage rates, and seasonal services such as chimney sweeping and lawn care. Therefore, prerecorded messages sent by companies to customers with whom they have an established business relationship will not be considered “abandoned” under the revised rules, if they are delivered within two (2) seconds of the person's completed greeting. Similarly, any messages initiated with the called party's prior express consent and delivered within two (2) seconds of the called person's completed greeting are not “abandoned” calls under the new rules. Such messages must identify the business, individual or entity making the call and contain a telephone number that a consumer may call to request placement on a do-not-call list. We recognize that the established business relationship exception to the prohibition on prerecorded messages conflicts with the FTC's amended rule. However, for the reasons described above, we believe the current exception is necessary to avoid interfering with ongoing business relationships.
113. The Commission also adopts a requirement that telemarketers allow the phone to ring for 15 seconds or four (4) rings before disconnecting any unanswered call. This standard is consistent with that of the FTC, similar to current DMA guidelines, and used by some telemarketers already. One industry commenter asserted that telemarketers often set the predictive dialers to ring for a very short period of time before disconnecting the call; in such cases, the predictive dialer does not record the call as having been abandoned. The practice of ringing and then disconnecting the call before the consumer has an opportunity to answer the phone is intrusive of consumer privacy and serves only to increase efficiencies for telemarketers. Moreover, in discussing the interplay between the FTC's rules with the Commission's rules, very few commenters opposed the “ring time” requirement adopted by the FTC, or raised any particular concerns about how it might work in the TCPA framework. Therefore, given the substantial interest in protecting consumers' privacy interests, as well as Congress's direction to maximize consistency with the FTC's rules, we have determined to adopt the 15 second or four (4) ring requirement.
114. Finally, consistent with the FTC's rules, the Commission has determined that telemarketers must maintain records establishing that the technology used to dial numbers complies with the three (3) percent call abandonment rate, “ring time,” and two-second rule on connecting to a live sales agent. Telemarketers must provide such records in order to demonstrate compliance with the call abandonment rules. Only by adopting a recordkeeping requirement will the Commission be able to enforce adequately the rules on the use of predictive dialers.
115. The TCPA seeks primarily to protect subscribers from unrestricted commercial telemarketing calls, and therefore exempts calls or messages by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from the definition of telephone solicitation. Therefore, the Commission has determined not to extend the call abandonment rules to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations in the absence of further guidance from Congress. Because this will result in an inconsistency with the FTC's rules, we will discuss the call abandonment rules in the report due to Congress within 45 days after the promulgation of final rules. See Do-Not-Call Act, Section 4. However, the call abandonment rules will apply to all other companies engaged in telemarketing, and the existence of an established business relationship between the telemarketer and consumer will not be an exception to these rules. For these entities, the call abandonment rules will become effective on October 1, 2003. We decline to establish an effective date beyond October 1, 2003, which is consistent with the date that telemarketers must comply with the FTC's call abandonment rules. This should permit telemarketers to make any modifications to their autodialing equipment or purchase any new software to enable them to comply with the three (3) percent call abandonment rate, the prerecorded message requirement and the two-second-transfer rule.
Wireless Telephone Numbers
Telemarketing Calls to Wireless Numbers
116. We affirm that under the TCPA, it is unlawful to make any call using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded message to any wireless telephone number. See 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1). Both the statute and our rules prohibit these calls, with limited exceptions, “to any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged.” 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii). This encompasses both voice calls and text calls to wireless numbers including, for example, short message service calls, provided the call is made to a telephone number assigned to such service. Congress found that automated or prerecorded telephone calls were a greater nuisance and invasion of privacy than live solicitation calls. Moreover, such calls can be costly and inconvenient. The Commission has long recognized, and the record in this proceeding supports the same conclusion, that wireless customers are charged for incoming calls whether they pay in advance or after the minutes are used. Wireless subscribers who purchase a large “bucket” of minutes at a fixed rate nevertheless are charged for those minutes, and for any minutes that exceed the “bucket” allowance. This “bucket” could be exceeded more quickly if consumers receive numerous unwanted telemarketing calls. Moreover, as several commenters point out, telemarketers have no way to determine how consumers are charged for their wireless service.
117. Although the same economic and safety concerns apply to all telephone solicitation calls received by wireless subscribers, the Commission has determined not to prohibit all live telephone solicitations to wireless numbers. We note, however, that the TCPA already prohibits live solicitation calls to wireless numbers using an autodialer. See 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1). The national do-not-call database will allow for the registration of wireless telephone Start Printed Page 44166numbers for those subscribers who wish to avoid live telemarketing calls to their wireless phones. Wireless subscribers thus have a simple means of preventing most live telemarketing calls if they so desire. Registration on the do-not-call database will not prevent calls from entities that have an established business relationship with a wireless subscriber. Wireless subscribers who receive such live calls can easily make a company-specific do-not-call request. Moreover, relying on the do-not-call database to control live telephone solicitations recognizes that prohibiting such calls to wireless numbers may unduly restrict telemarketers' ability to contact those consumers who do not object to receiving telemarketing calls and use their wireless phones as either their primary or only phone.
118. The Commission's rules provide that companies making telephone solicitations to residential telephone subscribers must comply with time of day restrictions and must institute procedures for maintaining do-not-call lists. See 47 CFR 64.1200(e). We conclude that these rules apply to calls made to wireless telephone numbers. We believe that wireless subscribers should be afforded the same protections as wireline subscribers.
Wireless Number Portability and Pooling
119. Based on the evidence in the record, we find that it is not necessary to add rules to implement the TCPA as a result of the introduction of wireless Local Number Portability (LNP) and thousands-block number pooling. The TCPA rules prohibiting telemarketers from placing autodialed and prerecorded message calls to wireless numbers have been in place for twelve years. Further, the Commission's pooling requirements have been in place for several years and the porting requirements have been in place for over five years. Accordingly, telemarketers have received sufficient notice of these requirements in order to develop business practices that will allow them to continue to comply with the TCPA.
120. Additionally, telemarketers have taken measures in the past to identify wireless numbers, and there is no indication that these measures would not continue to be effective for identifying wireless numbers affected by pooling and porting. As noted above, the industry currently makes use of a variety of tools to enable it to avoid making prohibited calls. The record provides a sampling of methods, including the DMA's “Wireless Telephone Suppression Service,” that telemarketers use to avoid making prohibited calls to wireless numbers.
121. LNP and pooling do not make it impossible for telemarketers to comply with the TCPA. The record demonstrates that information is available from a variety of sources to assist telemarketers in determining which numbers are assigned to wireless carriers. For example, NeuStar, Inc. as the North American Numbering Plan Administrator, the National Pooling Administrator, and the LNP Administrator makes information available that can assist telemarketers in identifying numbers assigned to wireless carriers. Also, other commercial enterprises such as Telcordia, the owner-operator of the Local Exchange Routing Guide maintain information that can assist telemarketers in identifying numbers assigned to wireless carriers. We acknowledge that beginning November 24, 2003, numbers previously used for wireline service could be ported to wireless service providers and that telemarketers will need to take the steps necessary to identify these numbers. We also note that there are various solutions that will enable telemarketers to identify wireless numbers in a pooling and number portability environment. We decline to mandate a specific solution, but rather rely on the telemarketing industry to select solutions that best fit telemarketers' needs. The record demonstrates that telemarketers have found adequate methods in the past to comply with the TCPA's prohibition on telephone calls using an autodialer or an artificial or prerecorded voice message to any telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service, a paging service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call. We expect telemarketers to continue to make use of the tools available in the marketplace in order to ensure continued compliance with the TCPA.
122. Moreover, the record indicates that telemarketing to wireless phones is not a significant problem, indicating that the industries' voluntary efforts have been successful. Commenters further declare that the wireless and telemarketing industries have been actively working together to ensure that telemarketing does not become a problem for wireless customers.
123. Finally, we reject proposals to create a good faith exception for inadvertent autodialed or prerecorded calls to wireless numbers and proposals to create implied consent because we find that there are adequate solutions in the marketplace to enable telemarketers to identify wireless numbers.
124. The Commission has determined to require all sellers and telemarketers to transmit caller ID information, regardless of their calling systems. In addition, any person or entity engaging in telemarketing is prohibited from blocking the transmission of caller ID information. Caller ID information must include either ANI or Calling Party Number (CPN) and, when available by the telemarketer's carrier, the name of the telemarketer. If the information required is not passed through to the consumer, through no fault of the telemarketer originating the call, then the telemarketer will not be held liable for failure to comply with the rules. In such a circumstance, the telemarketer must provide clear and convincing evidence that the caller ID information could not be transmitted. However, the Commission concurs with the FTC that caller ID information can be transmitted cost effectively for the vast majority of calls made by telemarketers. Caller ID allows consumers to screen out unwanted calls and to identify companies that they wish to ask not to call again. Knowing the identity of the caller is also helpful to consumers who feel frightened or threatened by hang-up and “dead air” calls. We disagree with those commenters who argue that caller ID information only benefits those consumers who subscribe to caller ID services. Consumers can also use the *69 feature to obtain caller ID information transmitted by a telemarketer. The *69 feature, available through many subscribers' telephone service providers, provides either: (1) Information regarding the last incoming call, and the option to dial the caller back, or (2) the ability to return the last incoming call. Call information, however, would not be available for an incoming call, if the caller failed to transmit caller ID information or blocked such information. Caller ID also should increase accountability and provide an important resource for the FCC and FTC in pursuing enforcement actions against TCPA and TSR violators.
125. We conclude that while SS7 capability is not universally available, the vast majority of the United States has access to SS7 infrastructure. The SS7 network contains functionality to transmit both the CPN and the charge number. “Charge number” is defined in 47 CFR 64.1600(d) and refers to the delivery of the calling party's billing number by a local exchange carrier for billing or routing purposes, and to the subsequent delivery of such number to end users. Under the Commission's rules, with certain limited exceptions, Start Printed Page 44167common carriers using SS7 and offering or subscribing to any service based on SS7 functionality are required to transmit the CPN associated with an interstate call to connecting carriers. See 47 CFR 64.1600, 64.1601. Regardless of whether SS7 is available, a LEC at the originating end of a call must receive and be able to transmit the ANI to the connecting carrier, as the ANI is the number transmitted through the network that identifies the calling party for billing purposes. The term “ANI” refers to the delivery of the calling party's billing number by a local exchange carrier to any interconnecting carrier for billing or routing purposes, and to the subsequent delivery to end users. See 47 CFR 64.1600(b). ANI is generally inferred by the switch. Each line termination on the telco switch corresponds to a different phone number for ANI. Thus, we determine that telemarketers must ensure that either CPN or ANI is made available for all telemarketing calls in order to satisfy their caller ID requirements. Whenever possible, CPN is the preferred number and should be transmitted. Provision of Caller ID information does not obviate the requirement for a caller to verbally supply identification information during a call. See 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(iv). Consistent with the FTC's rules, CPN can include any number associated with the telemarketer or party on whose behalf the call is made, that allows the consumer to identify the caller. This includes a number assigned to the telemarketer by its carrier, the specific number from which a sales representative placed a call, the number for the party on whose behalf the telemarketer is making the call, or the seller's customer service number. Any number supplied must permit an individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours for the duration of the telemarketing campaign.
126. Some commenters state that it is not technically feasible for telemarketers to transmit caller ID information when using a private branch exchange (PBX) and typical T-1 trunks. As noted by National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, the Commission's rules exempt from the current caller ID rules, PBX and Centrex systems which lack the capability to pass CPN information. Regardless of whether a call is made using a typical T-1 trunk or an ISDN trunk, ANI is transmitted to the Local Exchange Carrier for billing purposes. With both PBX and Centrex systems, the carrier can determine the billing number from the physical line being used to make a call, even if the billing number is not transmitted along that line to the carrier. We are cognizant of the fact that with PBX and Centrex systems, the billing number could be associated with multiple outgoing lines. Nevertheless, telemarketers using PBX or Centrex systems are required under the new rules not to block ANI, at a minimum, for caller ID purposes.
127. We recognize that ISDN technology is preferred, as it presents the opportunity to transmit both CPN and ANI. However, in situations where existing technology permits only the transmission of the ANI or charge number, then the ANI or charge number will satisfy the Commission's rules, provided it allows a consumer to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours. By allowing transmission of ANI or charge number to satisfy the caller ID requirement, we believe that carriers need not incur significant costs to upgrade T-1 and ISDN switches. For these same reasons, we also believe that mandating caller ID will not create a competitive advantage towards particular carriers. As typical T-1 technology is upgraded to ISDN technology, we expect that telemarketers will increasingly be able to transmit the preferred CPN instead of ANI or charge number.
128. Finally, the record strongly supports a prohibition on blocking caller ID information. Both National Consumers League and National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates state that there is no valid reason why a telemarketer should be allowed to intentionally block the transmission of caller ID. We conclude that the caller ID requirements for commercial telephone solicitation calls do not implicate the privacy concerns associated with blocking capability for individuals. See 47 CFR 64.1601(b). We recognize that absent a prohibition on blocking, a party could transmit CPN in accordance with the new rules and simultaneously transmit a request to block transmission of caller ID information. Thus, the Commission has determined to prohibit any request by a telemarketer to block caller ID information or ANI.
129. The TCPA seeks primarily to protect subscribers from unrestricted commercial telemarketing calls. Therefore, the Commission has determined not to extend the caller ID requirements to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. However, the caller ID rules will apply to all other companies engaged in telemarketing, and the existence of an established business relationship between the telemarketer and the consumer shall not be an exception to these rules. For all covered entities, the effective date of the caller ID requirements will be January 29, 2004. This will provide telemarketers a reasonable period of time to obtain or update any equipment or systems to enable them to transmit caller ID information. We decline to extend the effective date beyond January 29, 2004, which is consistent with the date on which telemarketers are required to comply with the FTC's caller ID provision.
Unsolicited Facsimile Advertisements
Prior Express Invitation or Permission
130. The Commission has determined that the TCPA requires a person or entity to obtain the prior express invitation or permission of the recipient before transmitting an unsolicited fax advertisement. This express invitation or permission must be in writing and include the recipient's signature. The term “signature” in the amended rule shall include an electronic or digital form of signature, to the extent that such form of signature is recognized as a valid signature under applicable federal law or state contract law. The recipient must clearly indicate that he or she consents to receiving such faxed advertisements from the company to which permission is given, and provide the individual or business's fax number to which faxes may be sent.
131. Established Business Relationship. The TCPA does not act as a total ban on fax advertising. Persons and businesses that wish to advertise using faxes may, under the TCPA, do so with the express permission of the recipients. In the 2002 Notice, we sought comment on whether an established business relationship between a fax sender and recipient establishes the requisite consent to receive telephone facsimile advertisements. The majority of industry commenters support the finding that facsimile transmissions from persons or entities that have an established business relationship with the recipient can be deemed to be invited or permitted by the recipient. These commenters maintain that Start Printed Page 44168eliminating the EBR exemption for facsimile advertisements would interfere with ongoing business relationships, raise business costs, and limit the flow of valuable information to consumers. They urge the Commission to amend the rules to provide expressly for the EBR exemption. Conversely, the majority of consumer advocates argue that the TCPA requires companies to obtain express permission from consumers—even their existing customers—before transmitting a fax to a consumer. Some consumer advocates maintain that the Commission erred in its 1992 determination that a consumer, by virtue of an established business relationship, has given his or her express invitation or permission to receive faxes from that company. They urge the Commission to eliminate the EBR exemption, noting that Congress initially included in the TCPA an EBR exemption for faxes, but removed it from the final version of the statute.
132. We now reverse our prior conclusion that an established business relationship provides companies with the necessary express permission to send faxes to their customers. As of the effective date of these rules, the EBR will no longer be sufficient to show that an individual or business has given their express permission to receive unsolicited facsimile advertisements. The record in this proceeding reveals consumers and businesses receive faxes they believe they have neither solicited nor given their permission to receive. Recipients of these faxed advertisements assume the cost of the paper used, the cost associated with the use of the facsimile machine, and the costs associated with the time spent receiving a facsimile advertisement during which the machine cannot be used by its owner to send or receive other facsimile transmissions.
133. The legislative history indicates that one of Congress' primary concerns was to protect the public from bearing the costs of unwanted advertising. Certain practices were treated differently because they impose costs on consumers. For example, under the TCPA, calls to wireless phones and numbers for which the called party is charged are prohibited in the absence of an emergency or without the prior express consent of the called party. See 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1). Because of the cost shifting involved with fax advertising, Congress similarly prohibited unsolicited faxes without the prior express permission of the recipient. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C) and (a)(4). Unlike the do-not-call list for telemarketing calls, Congress provided no mechanism for opting out of unwanted facsimile advertisements. Such an opt-out list would require the recipient to possibly bear the cost of the initial facsimile and inappropriately place the burden on the recipient to contact the sender and request inclusion on a “do-not-fax” list.
134. Instead, Congress determined that companies that wish to fax unsolicited advertisements to customers must obtain their express permission to do so before transmitting any faxes to them. See 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C) and (a)(4). Advertisers may obtain consent for their faxes through such means as direct mail, Web sites, and interaction with customers in their stores. Under the new rules, the permission to send fax advertisements must be provided in writing, include the recipient's signature and facsimile number, and cannot be in the form of a “negative option.” A facsimile advertisement containing a telephone number and an instruction to call if the recipient no longer wishes to receive such faxes, would constitute a “negative option.” This option (in which the sender presumes consent unless advised otherwise) would impose costs on facsimile recipients unless or until the recipient were able to ask that such transmissions be stopped. For example, a company that requests a fax number on an application form could include a clear statement indicating that, by providing such fax number, the individual or business agrees to receive facsimile advertisements from that company. Such statement, if accompanied by the recipient's signature, will constitute the necessary prior express permission to send facsimile advertisements to that individual or business. We believe that even small businesses may easily obtain permission from existing customers who agree to receive faxed advertising, when customers patronize their stores or provide their contact information. The Commission believes that given the cost shifting and interference caused by unsolicited faxes, the interest in protecting those who would otherwise be forced to bear the burdens of unwanted faxes outweighs the interests of companies that wish to advertise via fax.
135. Membership in a Trade Association. In its 1995 Reconsideration Order, the Commission determined that mere distribution or publication of a telephone facsimile number is not the equivalent of prior express permission to receive faxed advertisements. The Commission also found that given the variety of circumstances in which such numbers may be distributed (business cards, advertisements, directory listings, trade journals, or by membership in an association), it was appropriate to treat the issue of consent in any complaint regarding unsolicited facsimile advertisements on a case-by-case basis. In the 2002 Notice, we sought comment specifically on the issue of membership in a trade association or similar group and asked whether publication of one's fax number in an organization's directory constitutes an invitation or permission to receive an unsolicited fax. The American Business Media argued that those willing to make fax numbers available in directories released to the public do so with an expectation that such fax numbers will be used for advertising. Consumer advocates, however, contend that publicly listing a fax number is not a broad invitation to send commercial faxes. TOPUC asserted that businesses often publish their fax numbers for the convenience of their customers, clients and other trade association members, not for the benefit of telemarketers.
136. The Commission agrees that fax numbers are published and distributed for a variety of reasons, all of which are usually connected to the fax machine owner's business or other personal and private interests. The record shows that they are not distributed for other companies' advertising purposes. Thus, a company wishing to fax ads to consumers whose numbers are listed in a trade publication or directory must first obtain the express permission of those consumers. Express permission to receive a faxed ad requires that the consumer understand that by providing a fax number, he or she is agreeing to receive faxed advertisements. We believe the burden on companies to obtain express permission is warranted when balanced against the need to protect consumers and businesses from bearing the advertising costs of those companies. Finally, the Commission affirms that facsimile requests for permission to transmit faxed ads, including toll-free opt-out numbers, impose unacceptable costs on the recipients. This kind of “negative option” is contrary to the statutory requirement for prior express permission or invitation.
137. The Commission explained in the 2002 Notice that some fax broadcasters, who transmit other entities' advertisements to a large number of telephone facsimile machines for a fee, maintain lists of facsimile numbers that they use to direct their clients' advertisements. We noted that this practice, among others, indicates a fax broadcaster's close involvement in sending unlawful fax advertisements Start Printed Page 44169and may subject such entities to enforcement action under the TCPA and our existing rules. We then sought comment on whether the Commission should address specifically in the rules the activities of fax broadcasters. Companies and organizations whose members hire fax broadcasters to transmit their messages argue that the fax broadcaster should be liable for violations of the TCPA's faxing prohibition. American International Automobile Dealers Association maintains this should be the case, even if the fax broadcaster uses the list of fax numbers provided by the company doing the advertising. Nextel argues that liability ought to lie with the party controlling the destination of the fax; that fax broadcasters who actively compile and market databases of fax numbers are the major perpetrators of TCPA fax violations. Nextel specifically urges the Commission to find that companies whose products are advertised by independent retailers should not be liable for TCPA violations when they have no knowledge of such activities. Fax broadcasters disagree that they should be liable for unlawful faxes, maintaining that many of them do not exercise any editorial control or discretion over the content of the messages, and do not provide the list of fax numbers to which the ads are transmitted. Many industry as well as consumer commenters agree that only those fax broadcasters who are closely involved in the transmission of the fax should be subject to liability. Reed asserts that liability should rest with the entity on whose behalf a fax is sent; that fax broadcasters are not in a position to know firsthand whether, for example, an established business relationship exists between the company and consumer.
138. The Commission's rulings clearly indicate that a fax broadcaster's exemption from liability is based on the type of activities it undertakes, and only exists “[i]n the absence of ‘a high degree of involvement or actual notice of an illegal use and failure to take steps to prevent such transmissions.’” 1992 TCPA Order, 7 FCC Rcd at 8780, para. 54 (quoting Use of Common Carriers, 2 FCC Rcd 2819, 2820 (1987)). The Commission believes that, based on the record and our own enforcement experience, addressing the activities of fax broadcasters will better inform both consumers and businesses about the prohibition on unsolicited fax advertising. The Commission has determined to amend the rules to state explicitly that a fax broadcaster will be liable for an unsolicited fax if there is a high degree of involvement or actual notice on the part of the broadcaster. The new rules provide that if the fax broadcaster supplies the fax numbers used to transmit the advertisement, the fax broadcaster will be liable for any unsolicited advertisement faxed to consumers and businesses without their prior express invitation or permission. We agree, however, that if the company whose products are advertised has supplied the list of fax numbers, that company is in the best position to ensure that recipients have consented to receive the faxes and should be liable for violations of the prohibition. Therefore, the fax broadcaster will not be responsible for the ads, in the absence of any other close involvement, such as determining the content of the faxed message. A high degree of involvement might be demonstrated by a fax broadcaster's role in reviewing and assessing the content of a facsimile message. In such circumstances where both the fax broadcaster and advertiser demonstrate a high degree of involvement, they may be held jointly and severally liable for violations of the unsolicited facsimile provisions. In adopting this rule, the Commission focuses on the nature of an entity's activity rather than on any label that the entity may claim. We believe the rule will better inform the business community about the prohibition on unsolicited fax advertising and the liability that attaches to such faxing. And, it will better serve consumers who are often confused about which party is responsible for unlawful fax advertising. For the same reasons, the new rules define “facsimile broadcaster” to mean a person or entity that transmits messages to telephone facsimile machines on behalf of another person or entity for a fee. See 47 CFR 64.1200(f)(4).
139. Some commenters ask the Commission to clarify the extent of common carriers' liability for the transmission of unsolicited faxes. Cox specifically urges the Commission to distinguish the obligations of fax broadcasters from “traditional common carriers.” As noted above, the Commission has stated that “[i]n the absence of ‘a high degree of involvement or actual notice of an illegal use and failure to take steps to prevent such transmissions,’ common carriers will not be held liable for the transmission of a prohibited facsimile message.” 1992 TCPA Order, 7 FCC Rcd at 8780, para. 54 (quoting Use of Common Carriers, 2 FCC Rcd 2819, 2820 (1987)). We reiterate here that if a common carrier is merely providing the network over which a subscriber (a fax broadcaster or other individual, business, or entity) sends an unsolicited facsimile message, that common carrier will not be liable for the facsimile.
140. Nextel urges the Commission to clarify that section 217 of the Communications Act does not impose a higher level of liability on common carriers than on other entities for violations of the TCPA. Section 217 provides that “[i]n construing and enforcing the provisions of this Act, the act, omission, or failure of any officer, agent, or other person acting for or employed by any common carrier or user, acting within the scope of his employment, shall in every case be also deemed to be the act, omission, or failure of such carrier or user as well as that of the person.” 47 U.S.C. 217. The Commission declines to address the scope of section 217 in this rulemaking, which was not raised in the 2002 Notice or in subsequent notices in this proceeding.
141. The TCPA makes it unlawful for any person to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine. 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(C). The TCPA defines the term “telephone facsimile machine” to mean “equipment which has the capacity (A) to transcribe text or images, or both, from paper into an electronic signal and to transmit that signal over a regular telephone line, or (B) to transcribe text or images (or both) from an electronic signal received over a regular telephone line onto paper.” 47 U.S.C. 227(a)(2). The Commission sought comment on any developing technologies, such as computerized fax servers, that might warrant revisiting these rules.
142. Commenters who addressed this issue were divided on whether fax servers should be subject to the unsolicited facsimile provisions. Some industry representatives urged the Commission to clarify that the TCPA does not prohibit the transmission of unsolicited fax advertisements to fax servers and personal computers because these transmissions are not sent to a “telephone facsimile machine,” as defined in the statute. Nextel maintains that such faxes do not implicate the harms Congress sought to redress in the TCPA, as they are not reduced to paper and can be deleted from one's inbox without being opened or examined. Other commenters disagree, noting that there are other costs associated with faxes sent to computers and fax servers. They note that the TPCA only requires Start Printed Page 44170that the equipment have the capacity to transcribe text or messages onto paper, and that computer fax servers and personal computers have that capacity.
143. We conclude that faxes sent to personal computers equipped with, or attached to, modems and to computerized fax servers are subject to the TCPA's prohibition on unsolicited faxes. However, we clarify that the prohibition does not extend to facsimile messages sent as email over the Internet. The record confirms that a conventional stand-alone telephone facsimile machine is just one device used for this purpose; that developing technologies permit one to send and receive facsimile messages in a myriad of ways. Today, a modem attached to a personal computer allows one to transmit and receive electronic documents as faxes. “Fax servers” enable multiple desktops to send and receive faxes from the same or shared telephony lines.
144. The TCPA's definition of “telephone facsimile machine” broadly applies to any equipment that has the capacity to send or receive text or images. The purpose of the requirement that a “telephone facsimile machine” have the “capacity to transcribe text or images” is to ensure that the prohibition on unsolicited faxing not be circumvented. Congress could not have intended to allow easy circumvention of its prohibition when faxes are (intentionally or not) transmitted to personal computers and fax servers, rather than to traditional stand-alone facsimile machines. As the House Report accompanying the TCPA explained, “facsimile machines are designed to accept, process and print all messages which arrive over their dedicated lines. The fax advertiser takes advantage of this basic design by sending advertisements to available fax numbers, knowing that it will be received and printed by the recipient's machine.” H.R. Rep. No. 102-317 at 10 (1991). However, Congress also took account of the “interference, interruptions, and expense” resulting from junk faxes, emphasizing in the same Report that “[i]n addition to the costs associated with the fax advertisements, when a facsimile machine is receiving a fax, it may require several minutes or more to process and print the advertisement. During that time, the fax machine is unable to process actual business communications. H.R. Rep. No. 102-317 at 25 (1991).”
145. Facsimile messages sent to a computer or fax server may shift the advertising costs of paper and toner to the recipient, if they are printed. They may also tie up lines and printers so that the recipients' requested faxes are not timely received. Such faxes may increase labor costs for businesses, whose employees must monitor faxes to determine which ones are junk faxes and which are related to their company's business. Finally, because a sender of a facsimile message has no way to determine whether it is being sent to a number associated with a stand-alone fax machine or to one associated with a personal computer or fax server, it would make little sense to apply different rules based on the device that ultimately received it.
146. The TCPA and Commission rules require that any message sent via a telephone facsimile machine contain the date and time it is sent and an identification of the business, other entity, or individual sending the message and the telephone number of the sending machine or of such business, other entity, or individual. 47 U.S.C. 227(d)(1)(B); 47 CFR 68.318(d). In the 2002 Notice, the Commission asked whether these rules have been effective at protecting consumers' rights to enforce the TCPA. The Commission determined in its Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, CC Docket No. 92-90, Order on Further Reconsideration, 12 FCC Rcd 4609, 4613, para. 6 (1997) (1997 TCPA Reconsideration Order) that a facsimile broadcast service must ensure that the identifying information of the entity on whose behalf the provider sent messages appear on facsimile messages. In its discussion, the Commission clarified that the sender of a facsimile message is the creator of the content of the message, finding that Section 227(d)(1) of the TCPA mandates that a facsimile include the identification of the business, other entity, or individual creating or originating a facsimile message, and not the entity that transmits the message. The Commission believes that if a fax broadcaster is responsible for the content of the message or for determining the destination of the message (i.e., supplying the list of facsimile numbers to which the faxes are sent), it should be identified on the facsimile, along with the entity whose products are advertised. Therefore, we amend the rules to require any fax broadcaster that demonstrates a high degree of involvement in the transmission of such facsimile message to be identified on the facsimile, along with the identification of the sender. This will permit consumers to hold fax broadcasters accountable for unlawful fax advertisements when there is a high degree of involvement on the part of the fax broadcaster. Commenters suggested the Commission clarify what constitutes an adequate identification header. Consistent with our amended identification rules for telemarketing calls, senders of fax advertisements will be required under the new rules to use the name under which they are officially registered to conduct business. Use of a “d/b/a” (“doing business as”) or other more widely recognized name is permissible; however, the official identification of the business, as filed with state corporate registration offices or comparable regulatory entities, must be included, at a minimum.
Private Right of Action
147. The Commission declines to make any determination about the specific contours of the TCPA's private right of action. Congress provided consumers with a private right of action, “if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State.” 47 U.S.C. 227(c)(5). This language suggests that Congress contemplated that such legal action was a matter for consumers to pursue in appropriate state courts, subject to those courts' rules. The Commission believes it is for Congress, not the Commission, to either clarify or limit this right of action.
Informal Complaint Rules
148. In the 2002 Notice, the Commission noted that it had released another Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in February of 2002, seeking comment on whether to extend the informal complaint rules to entities other than common carriers. We sought comment in this proceeding on whether the Commission should amend these informal complaint rules to apply to telemarketers. We will review this issue as part of the Informal Complaints proceeding. All comments filed in this proceeding that address the applicability of the informal complaint rules to telemarketers will be incorporated into CI Docket No. 02-32.
Time of Day Restrictions
149. Commission rules restrict telephone solicitations between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time at the called party's location. 47 CFR 64.1200(e)(1). As part of our review of the TCPA rules, we sought comment on how effective these time restrictions have been at limiting objectionable solicitation calls. The Commission also asked whether more restrictive calling times could work in conjunction with a national registry to better protect Start Printed Page 44171consumers from telephone solicitations to which they object.
150. Industry members that commented on the calling time restrictions unanimously asserted that the current calling times should be retained. Some explained that any restrictions on calls made during the early evening hours, in particular, would interfere with telemarketers' ability to reach their customers. Consumers, on the other hand, urged the Commission to adopt tighter restrictions on the times that telemarketers may call them. Some object to calls at the end of the day and during the dinner hour; others prefer that telemarketers not be able to begin calling until later in the morning. Some suggest the calling times should parallel local noise ordinances. EPIC advocated allowing consumers to specify the hours they wish to receive calls.
151. The Commission declines to revise the restrictions on calling times. Instead, we retain the current calling times, which are consistent with the FTC's rules. We believe the current calling times strike the appropriate balance between protecting consumer privacy and not unduly burdening industry in their efforts to conduct legitimate telemarketing. We also believe that Commission rules that diverge from the FTC's calling restrictions will lead to confusion for consumers. Moreover, consumers who want to block unwanted calls during certain times will now have the option of placing their telephone numbers on the national do-not-call registry. They will have the additional option of giving express verifiable authorization to only those companies from which they wish to hear. The Commission declines at this time to require companies to adhere to consumers' calling preferences, including “acceptable” calling times. The Commission encourages any seller or telemarketer to comply with consumers' requests not to be called during certain times of the day. We believe that the costs of monitoring calling times for individual consumers could be substantial for many companies, particularly small businesses.
152. TCPA enforcement has been a Commission priority over the past several years, and we intend that it remain so. In guiding our future enforcement plans, we recognize that the FTC's recent rule changes expand that agency's regulation of telemarketing activities and require coordination to ensure consistent and non-redundant federal enforcement in this area. Most notably, the FTC's adoption of a nationwide do-not-call registry, the related Do-Not-Call Act, and finally our adoption of requirements that maximize consistency with those adopted by the FTC create an overlap in federal regulations governing major telemarketing activities. There are other overlapping regulations such as provisions governing abandoned calls, transmission of caller ID, and time-of-day restrictions. We hereby direct Commission staff to negotiate with FTC staff a Memorandum of Understanding between the respective staffs to achieve an efficient and effective enforcement strategy that will promote compliance with federal telemarketing regulations.
153. The FCC's jurisdiction over telemarketing is significantly broader than the FTC's. First, as noted above, the FTC does not have authority over telemarketing calls made by in-house employees of common carriers, banks, credit unions, savings and loans, insurance companies, and airlines. In addition, the FTC's telemarketing rules pertain only to interstate transmissions. In contrast, the FCC's telemarketing rules apply without exception to any entity engaged in any of the telemarketing activities targeted by the TCPA and the Commission's related rules, including those that involve purely intrastate activities. 47 U.S.C. 152(b). Given the substantial gaps in the FTC's authority over the full range of telemarketing activities, we contemplate that our enforcement staff will focus particularly on those activities and entities that fall outside the FTC's reach—airlines, banks, credit unions, savings and loans, insurance companies, and common carriers, as well as intrastate transmissions by any entity.
154. Nevertheless, we do not contemplate Commission enforcement that targets only those activities, entities, or transmissions that are outside the FTC's jurisdiction. The TCPA creates a statutory expectation for FCC enforcement in the telemarketing area. See 47 U.S.C. 227(f)(3), (7). Moreover, the TCPA's detailed standards pertaining to do-not-call matters evince Congressional intent that the FCC assume a prominent role in federal regulation of this aspect of telemarketing, a mandate that is not altered by the Do-Not-Call Act. Accordingly, even with the FTC's new do-not-call regulations, including its administration of a national do-not-call registry, we emphasize that the Commission must stand ready to enforce each of our telemarketing rules in appropriate cases. For reasons of efficiency and fairness, our staff will work closely with the FTC to avoid unnecessarily duplicative enforcement actions.
155. In determining enforcement priorities under the new telemarketing rules, we contemplate that the Enforcement Bureau will continue its policy of reviewing FCC and FTC consumer complaint data and conferring with appropriate state and federal agencies to detect both egregious violations and patterns of violations, and will act accordingly. The Enforcement Bureau has in place effective procedures to review aggregate complaint information to determine the general areas that merit enforcement actions, and to identify both particular violators and the individual consumers who may be able to assist the staff in pursuing enforcement actions against such violators. Enforcement action could include, for example, forfeiture proceedings under section 503(b), cease and desist proceedings under section 312(c), injunctions under section 401, and revocation of common carrier section 214 operating authority.
Access to TCPA Inquiries and Complaints
156. The Commission stated that the 2002 Notice was “prompted, in part, by the increasing number and variety of inquiries and complaints involving our rules on telemarketing and unsolicited fax advertisements.” A few commenters maintain that the Commission should not consider final rules until parties have had an opportunity to analyze the consumer complaints referenced in the 2002 Notice. Other commenters contend that the number of complaints received by the Commission does not necessarily demonstrate a problem that demands government intervention. The ATA filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Commission on October 16, 2002, seeking access to the TCPA-related informal complaints. The FOIA generally provides that any person has a right to obtain access to federal agency records, subject to enumerated exemptions from disclosure. The FOIA requirements do not apply to records that contain “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” See 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(6). Many of the complaints sought by the ATA contain personal private information. In addition, the complaints are part of a Start Printed Page 44172system of records subject to the Privacy Act. 5 U.S.C. 552(a); 47 CFR 0.551 et seq. For these reasons, the Commission agreed to release the complaints on a rolling basis only after personal information was redacted. In response to ATA's FOIA request, the Commission has thus far provided approximately 2,420 redacted complaints.
157. We agree with commenters that the increasing number of inquiries and complaints about telemarketing practices should not form the basis upon which we revise or adopt new rules under the TCPA. Rather, such information can be considered in determining whether to seek comment on the effectiveness of any of its rules. Other considerations included: the Commission's own enforcement experience; the amount of time that had passed since the Commission undertook a broad review of the TCPA rules, during which time telemarketing practices have changed significantly; and the actions by the FTC to consider changes to its telemarketing rules, including the establishment of a national do-not-call registry. We note that, even in the absence of any such complaints, the Commission is required by the Do-Not-Call Act to complete the TCPA rulemaking commenced last year. We disagree with commenters who suggest that parties must have access to all of the complaints referenced in the NPRM in order to be able to have a meaningful opportunity to participate in this proceeding. It is not the existence of the complaints, or the number of complaints, that led the Commission to institute this proceeding to consider revision of its TCPA rules. Rather, our TCPA rules have been in place for more than ten years. We opened this proceeding to determine “whether the Commission's rules need to be revised in order to more effectively carry out Congress's directives in the TCPA.” 2002 Notice, 17 FCC Rcd at 17461, para. 1. In any event, since September 2002, consumers, industry, and state governments have filed over 6,000 comments in this proceeding, during which time the Commission extended the comment periods twice and released an FNPRM in order to ensure that parties had ample opportunity to comment on possible FCC action. The substantial record compiled in this proceeding, along with the Commission's own enforcement experience, provides the basis for the actions we take here today.
Reports to Congress
158. The Do-Not-Call Act requires the Commission to transmit reports to Congress within 45 days after the promulgation of final rules in this proceeding, and annually thereafter. By this Order, the Commission delegates its authority to the Chief, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, to issue all such reports.
Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
159. As required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, as amended (RFA), 5 U.S.C. 603, an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) was incorporated in the 2002 Notice released by the Commission on September 18, 2002. The Commission sought written public comments on the proposals contained in the 2002 Notice, including comments on the IRFA. On March 25, 2003, the Commission released the FNPRM, seeking comments on the requirements contained in the Do-Not-Call Act which was signed into law on March 11, 2003. None of the comments filed in this proceeding were specifically identified as comments addressing the IRFA; however, comments that address the impact of the proposed rules and policies on small entities are discussed below. This present Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) conforms to the RFA. See 5 U.S.C. 604.
A. Need for, and Objectives of, the Order
160. Since 1992, when the Commission adopted rules pursuant to the TCPA, telemarketing practices have changed significantly. New technologies have emerged that allow telemarketers to better target potential customers and make marketing using telephones and facsimile machines more cost-effective. At the same time, these new telemarketing techniques have heightened public concern about the effect telemarketing has on consumer privacy. A growing number of states have passed, or are considering, legislation to establish statewide do-not-call lists, and the FTC has decided to establish a national do-not-call registry. Congress provided in the TCPA that “individuals’ privacy rights, public safety interests, and commercial freedoms of speech and trade must be balanced in a way that protects the privacy of individuals and permits legitimate telemarketing practices.” See TCPA, Section 2(9), reprinted in 7 FCC Rcd 2736 at 2744.
161. The 2002 Notice sought comments on whether to revise or clarify Commission rules governing unwanted telephone solicitations, the use of automatic telephone dialing systems, prerecorded or artificial voice messages, telephone facsimile machines, the effectiveness of company-specific do-not-call lists, and the appropriateness of establishing a national do-not-call list. In addition, in the IRFA, the Commission sought comments on the effect the proposed policies and rules would have on small business entities.
162. In this Order the Commission revises the current TCPA rules and adopts new rules to provide consumers with additional options for avoiding unwanted telephone solicitations. We establish a national do-not-call registry for consumers who wish to avoid most unwanted telemarketing calls. This national do-not-call registry will supplement the current company-specific do-not-call rules, which will continue to permit consumers to request that particular companies not call them. The Commission also adopts a new provision to permit consumers registered with the national do-not-call list to provide permission to call to specific companies by an express written agreement. The TCPA rules exempt from the “do-not-call” requirements nonprofit organizations and companies with whom consumers have an established business relationship. The definition of “established business relationship” has been amended so that it is limited to 18 months from any purchase or financial transaction with the company and to three months from any inquiry or application from the consumer. Any company that is asked by a consumer, including an existing customer, not to call again must honor that request for five years. We retain the current calling time restrictions of 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.
163. To address the use of predictive dialers, we have determined that a telemarketer must abandon no more than three percent of calls answered by a person, must deliver a prerecorded identification message when abandoning a call, and must allow the telephone to ring for 15 seconds or four rings before disconnecting an unanswered call. The new rules also require all companies conducting telemarketing to transmit caller identification information when available, and they prohibit companies from blocking such information. The Commission has revised its earlier determination that an established business relationship constitutes express invitation or permission to receive an unsolicited facsimile advertisement. We find that the Start Printed Page 44173permission to send fax ads must be in writing, include the recipient's signature, and clearly indicate the recipient's consent to receive such ads. In addition, we have clarified when fax broadcasters are liable for the transmission of unlawful fax advertisements.
164. We believe the rules the Commission adopts in the Order strike an appropriate balance between maximizing consumer privacy protections and avoiding imposing undue burdens on telemarketers. In addition, the Commission must comply with the Do-Not-Call Act, which requires the Commission to file an annual report to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. This report is to include: (1) An analysis of the effectiveness of the registry; (2) the number of consumers included on the registry; (3) the number of persons accessing the registry and the fees collected for such access; (4) a description of coordination with state do-not-call registries; and, lastly, (5) a description of coordination of the registry with the Commission's enforcement efforts.
B. Summary of Significant Issues Raised by Public Comments in Response to the IRFA
165. There were no comments filed in direct response to the IRFA. Some commenters, however, raised issues and questions about the impact the proposed rules and policies would have on small entities. Telemarketers maintained that “telemarketing is used to introduce consumers to novel and competitive products and services,” often offered by small businesses. Some commenters insisted that business-to-business telemarketing is essential for small businesses. They indicated that they rely on fax broadcasting as a cost-effective form of advertising. On the other hand, other small businesses have requested that the Commission allow their telephone numbers to be included on any national do-not-call list and urged the Commission to adopt rules protecting them from unsolicited faxes. The rules adopted herein reflect not only the difficult balancing of individuals' privacy rights against the protections afforded commercial speech, but the difficult balancing of the interests of small businesses that rely on telemarketing against those that are harmed by unwanted telephone calls and facsimile transmissions. The amended rules should reduce burdens on both consumers and businesses, including small businesses.
166. National Do-Not-Call List. As discussed more extensively in the Order, some commenters opposed the adoption of a national do-not-call registry, stating that company-specific do-not-call lists adequately protect consumer privacy. Other commenters supported the establishment of a national do-not-call registry, arguing that “further regulation is needed because the current system does little or nothing to protect privacy in the home.” See Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (Privacy Rights) at 2. National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) “believes that significant burdens are being placed upon businesses of all sizes in order to comply with the regulations * * *, but that small businesses bear the brunt of those burdens.” NFIB Comments at 1. NFIB suggested that women, minorities and small businesses will be affected disproportionately by any new restrictions. And, some commenters maintained that businesses, including small businesses, will suffer a reduction in telemarketing sales as a result of the establishment of a national do-not-call list. Small Business Survival Committee (SBSC), while opposed to a national do-not-call list, nevertheless offered a recommendation that would make such a list less onerous for small businesses. SBSC suggested exempting local calls that might result in a face-to-face transaction from the do-not-call list requirements. National Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors also encouraged exempting calls which result in face-to-face meetings and recommended an exemption for those businesses that make a de minimis number of calls.
167. The Commission received comments arguing that a national do-not-call list “would be cumbersome” and too expensive for small businesses to use. Direct Selling Association specifically indicated that a national do-not-call list would increase businesses' start-up costs if they were required to purchase the list. In addition, Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA) maintained that many small lenders use referrals from existing customers, not large lists, to attract new business. Such referrals, MBA suggested, will be difficult to scrub against a national do-not-call list. Some commenters suggested that an option to help reduce the cost of a national do-not-call list for small businesses would be to offer smaller pieces of the list to small businesses.
168. Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association urged the Commission to continue to exempt business-to-business calls from a national do-not-call list, because small businesses benefit tremendously by advertising in yellow pages and on-line. However, other commenters requested that small businesses be allowed to include their telephone numbers on the national do-not-call list. One small business commenter stated that ”* * * telemarketing * * * interferes with business operations, especially small business operations * * *.” Mathemaesthetics, Inc. (Mathemaesthetics) Comments at 6. Another commenter argued that “people that work from home * * * should not have to be bothered with telemarketing calls that would impact their job performance and potentially their ability to make a living.” David T. Piekarski Comments (Docket No. 03-62) at 1-2. Finally, some have assured the Commission that a national do-not-call list would be manageable and feasible to maintain. NCS Pearson, Inc. (NCS), for example, maintained that even extremely small telemarketers could gain access to the do-not-call list at a reasonable cost using the Internet.
169. Web site or Toll-Free Number to Access Company-Specific Lists and to Confirm Requests. The Commission sought comment on whether to consider any modifications that would allow consumers greater flexibility to register on company-specific do-not-call lists. We specifically asked whether companies should be required to provide a toll-free number and/or Web site that consumers can access to register their names on do-not-call lists. Some commenters argued that it would be costly if small, local businesses were required to design and maintain Web sites or provide toll-free numbers for consumers to make do-not-call requests. In addition, they maintained that businesses should not be required to confirm registration of a consumer's name on a company's do-not-call list. Confirmations by mail, they stated, would be expensive for a business and probably perceived by the consumer as “junk mail.”
170. Established Business Relationship. One issue raised by commenters as particularly burdensome for small business was monitoring existing business relationships and do-not-call requests. NFIB stated that members have found requests by existing customers to cease contacting them “unwieldy and difficult * * * to translate as a business practice.” NFIB Comments at 2. “An individual who continues to interact with a [sic] these small businesses following a ‘do not contact’ request does not sever the business relationship de facto * * *”. NFIB Comments at 2. According to Start Printed Page 44174NFIB, it should be the right of the business to continue to call that customer. They argued that it should be the responsibility of the customer to terminate the relationship with that business affirmatively.
171. National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) indicated that there has been no significant change that would warrant a revision of the established business relationship exemption. In fact, NADA stated that “narrowing the exemption would unnecessarily deprive small businesses of a cost-effective marketing opportunity.” NADA Comments at 2. According to NADA, small businesses must maximize their marketing resources and the best way to do so is to direct their marketing efforts toward their existing customers.
172. While no commenter specifically addressed the effect of time limits on small businesses, several entities discussed time limits for the established business relationship rule in general. DMA indicated the difficulty in establishing a “clock” that “will apply across all the industries that use the phone to relate to their customers.” DMA Comments at 20. DMA continued by stating “[d]ifferent business models require different periods of time.” DMA Comments at 20. This concept was supported by Nextel, “the FTC's eighteen-month limit on its EBR rule would be inappropriate for the telecommunications industry” and would “dramatically increase administrative burdens and costs for all businesses as they would be forced to monitor and record every customer inquiry and purchasing pattern to ensure compliance with the FCC's rules.” Nextel Reply Comments 12-13.
173. Unsolicited Facsimile Advertising and “War Dialing”. Privacy Rights commented that the practice of dialing large blocks of numbers to identify facsimile lines, i.e., “war dialing,” should be prohibited, especially because such calls cannot be characterized as telemarketing. It argued that “this practice is particularly troubling for small business owners who often work out of home offices” because it deprives the small business owner of the use of the equipment, creates an annoyance and interrupts business calls. Privacy Rights Comments at 4-5.
174. NFIB advocated on behalf of its small business members that “the ability to fax information to their established customers is an essential commercial tool.” NFIB Comments at 3-4. Any customer who provides contact information when patronizing a business is providing express permission to be contacted by that business, including via facsimile advertising. In addition, NFIB indicated that businesses engaged in facsimile advertising should not be required to identify themselves, and that customers should be required to notify the business that they do not wish to receive such faxes. NADA agreed that the Commission should “preserve its determination that a prior business relationship between a fax sender and recipient establishes the requisite consent to receive fax advertisements.” NADA Comments at 2. According to NADA, changing these rules would deprive small businesses of a marketing tool upon which they have come to rely.
175. Other commenters disagreed, explaining that numerous small businesses are burdened by the intrusion of ringing telephones and fax machines, the receipt of advertisements in which they are not interested, the depletion of toner and paper, and the time spent dealing with these unwanted faxes. A few home-based businesses and other companies maintain that facsimile advertisements interfere with the receipt of faxes connected to their own business, and that the time spent collecting and sorting these faxes increases their labor costs. In fact, NFIB has received complaints from its own members “who * * * failed to realize that their membership entitles them to the receipt of such information via fax.” NFIB Comments at 2 (emphasis added).
176. Caller ID Requirements. In response to the Commission's proposal to require telemarketers to transmit caller ID or prohibit the blocking of such information, NYSCPB favored prohibiting the intentional blocking of caller ID information, but acknowledged that requiring the transmission of caller ID may be inappropriate for smaller firms. NYSCPB stated that “[w]hile mandatory transmission of caller ID information would undoubtedly facilitate do-not-call enforcement * * * we would not want to impose onerous burdens on smaller, less technically sophisticated firms * * *.” NYSCPB-Other Than National DNC List Comments at 9. In addition, NYSCPB suggested that smaller businesses that lack the capability to transmit caller ID be exempt from providing caller ID information until the business installs new equipment with caller ID capabilities.
C. Description and Estimate of the Number of Small Entities to Which the Rules Will Apply
177. The RFA directs agencies to provide a description of, and where feasible, an estimate of the number of small entities that may be affected by the rules adopted herein. The RFA generally defines the term “small entity” as having the same meaning as the terms “small business,” “small organization,” and “small governmental jurisdiction.” 5 U.S.C. 601(6). In addition, the term “small business” has the same meaning as the term “small business concern” under the Small Business Act. 5 U.S.C. 601(3) (incorporating by reference the definition of “small-business concern” in the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632). Under the Small Business Act, a “small business concern” is one that: (1) Is independently owned and operated; (2) is not dominant in its field of operation; and (3) satisfies any additional criteria established by the Small Business Administration (SBA). 15 U.S.C. 632.
178. The Commission's rules on telephone solicitation and the use of autodialers, artificial or prerecorded messages and telephone facsimile machines apply to a wide range of entities, including all entities that use the telephone or facsimile machine to advertise. 47 CFR 64.1200. That is, our action affects the myriad of businesses throughout the nation that use telemarketing to advertise. For instance, funeral homes, mortgage brokers, automobile dealers, newspapers and telecommunications companies could all be affected. Thus, we expect that the rules adopted in this proceeding could have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
179. Nationwide, there are a total of 22.4 million small businesses, according to SBA data. And, as of 1992, nationwide there were approximately 275,801 small organizations [not-for-profit].
180. Again, we note that our action affects an exhaustive list of business types and varieties. We will mention with particularity the intermediary groups that engage in this activity. SBA has determined that “telemarketing bureaus” with $6 million or less in annual receipts qualify as small businesses. See 13 CFR 121.201, NAICS code 561422. For 1997, there were 1,727 firms in the “telemarketing bureau” category, total, which operated for the entire year. Of this total, 1,536 reported annual receipts of less than $5 million, and an additional 77 reported receipts of $5 million to $9,999,999. Therefore, the majority of such firms can be considered to be small businesses.
D. Description of Projected Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Other Compliance Requirements for Small Entities
181. The rules contained herein require significant recordkeeping Start Printed Page 44175requirements on the part of businesses, including small business entities. First, while the national do-not-call list will be developed and maintained by the FTC, all businesses that engage in telemarketing will be responsible for obtaining the list of telephone numbers on the national do-not-call list and scrubbing their calling lists to avoid calling those numbers. They must also continue to be responsible for maintaining their own company-specific do-not-call lists; however, this is not a new requirement, but a continuation of the Commission's existing rules. The Commission has reduced the period of time that businesses must retain company-specific do-not-call requests from 10 years to five years. In addition, for those businesses, including small businesses, that wish to call consumers under the “established business relationship” exemption, they must continue to maintain customer lists in the normal course of business. Because of the time limits associated with this rule, businesses will need to monitor and record consumer contacts to assure that they are complying with the 18-month and three-month provisions in the rule. Businesses that want to call consumers with whom they have no relationship, but who are listed on the national do-not-call list, must obtain a consumer's express permission to call. This permission must be evidenced by a signed, written agreement.
182. Second, all businesses that use autodialers, including predictive dialers, to sell goods or services, will be required to maintain records documenting compliance with the call abandonment rules. Such records should demonstrate the telemarketers' compliance with a call abandonment rate of no less than three percent measured over a 30-day period, with the two-second-transfer rule, and with the ring duration requirement.
183. Third, with the exception of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, all businesses that engage in telemarketing will be required to transmit caller ID information.
184. Fourth, businesses that advertise by fax will be required to maintain records demonstrating that recipients have provided express permission to send fax advertisements. Such permission must be given in writing, and businesses must document that they have obtained the required permission.
E. Steps Taken To Minimize the Significant Economic Impact on Small Entities, and Significant Alternatives Considered
185. The RFA requires an agency to describe any significant alternatives that it has considered in developing its approach, which may include the following four alternatives (among others): “(1) The establishment of differing compliance or reporting requirements or timetables that take into account the resources available to small entities; (2) the clarification, consolidation, or simplification of compliance or reporting requirements under the rule for such small entities; (3) the use of performance rather than design standards; and (4) an exemption from coverage of the rule, or any part thereof, for such small entities.” 5 U.S.C. 603(c)(1) through (c)(4).
186. There were five specific areas in which the Commission considered alternatives for small businesses. These areas were: (1) Establishing a National Do-Not-Call List ((a) providing a portion of the national do-not-call list (five area codes) for free, (b) providing businesses with 30 days to process do-not-call requests, and (c) reducing the do-not-call record retention rate from 10 years to five years); (2) maintaining the current established business rule exemption and adopting the FTC's time limits of 18 months and three months; (3) establishing a call abandonment rate of three percent, rather than zero percent, and measuring the rate over a 30-day period, rather than on a per day basis; (4) continuing to prohibit facsimile advertising to residential and business numbers; and (5) declining to require businesses to maintain a Web site or toll-free number for do-not-call requests or confirmation of such requests by consumers. Small businesses presented arguments on both sides of each of these issues.
187. National Do-Not-Call List. This Order establishes a national do-not-call list for those residential telephone subscribers who wish to avoid most unwanted telephone solicitations. Although many businesses, including small businesses, objected to a national do-not-call registry, the Commission determined that a national do-not-call list was necessary to carry out the directives in the TCPA. We agreed with those commenters who maintained that the company-specific approach to concerns about unwanted telephone solicitations does not alone adequately protect individuals' privacy interests. We declined to exempt local solicitations and small businesses from the national do-not-call list. Given the numerous entities that solicit by telephone, and the technological tools that allow even small entities to make a significant number of solicitation calls, we believe that to do so would undermine the effectiveness of the national do-not-call rules in protecting consumer privacy. In addition, we declined to permit businesses to register their numbers on the national do-not-call registry, despite the requests of numerous small business owners to do so. The TCPA expressly contemplates that a national do-not-call database includes residential telephone subscribers' numbers. Although business numbers will not be included in the national do-not-call database, a business could nevertheless request that its number be added to a company's do-not-call list.
188. The Commission considered the costs to small businesses of purchasing the national do-not-call list. In an attempt to minimize the cost for small businesses, we have considered an alternative and determined that businesses will be allowed to obtain up to five area codes free of charge. Since many small businesses telemarket within a local area, providing five area codes at no cost should help to reduce or eliminate the costs of purchasing the national registry for small businesses. Furthermore, as suggested by NCS, small businesses should be able to gain access to the national list in an efficient, cost-effective manner via the Internet.
189. As discussed extensively in the Order, many businesses, including small business entities, requested specific exemptions from the requirements of a national do-not-call list. In order to minimize potential confusion for both consumers and businesses alike, we declined to create specific exemptions for small businesses. We believe the exemptions adopted for calls made to consumers with whom a seller has an established business relationship and those that have provided express agreement to be called provide businesses with a reasonable opportunity to conduct their business while protecting consumer privacy interests.
190. The Commission also considered modifying for small businesses the time frames for (1) processing consumers' do-not-call requests; (2) retaining consumer do-not-call records; and (3) scrubbing calling lists against the national do-not-call registry. In doing so, we recognized the limitations on small businesses of processing requests in a timely manner. Therefore, we determined to require that both large and small businesses must honor do-not-call requests within 30 days from the date such a request is made, instead of requiring that businesses honor requests in less time. Although some commenters suggested periods of up to 60 to 90 days to process do-not-call requests, we determined that such an inconsistency in the rules would lead to confusion for consumers. Start Printed Page 44176Consumers might not easily recognize that the telemarketer calling represented a small business and that they must then allow a longer period of time for their do-not-call requests to be processed.
191. The Commission also determined to reduce the retention period of do-not-call records from 10 years to five years. This modification should benefit businesses that are concerned about telephone numbers that change hands over time. They argue that a shorter retention requirement will result in do-not-call lists that more accurately reflect those consumers who have requested not to be called. Finally, we considered allowing small businesses additional time to scrub their customer call lists against the national do-not-call database. The FTC's rules require telemarketers to scrub their lists every 90 days. For the sake of consistency, and to avoid confusion on the part of consumers and businesses, the Commission determined to require all businesses to access the national registry and scrub their calling lists of numbers in the registry every 90 days.
192. Established Business Relationship. We have modified the current definition of “established business relationship” so that it is limited in duration to 18 months from any purchase or transaction and three months from any inquiry or application. The revised definition is consistent with the definition adopted by the FTC. We concluded that regulating the duration of an established business relationship is necessary to minimize confusion and frustration for consumers who receive calls from companies they have not contacted or patronized for many years. There was little consensus among industry members about how long an established business relationship should last following a transaction between the consumer and seller. We believe the 18-month timeframe strikes an appropriate balance between industry practices and consumer privacy interests. Although businesses, including small businesses must monitor the length of relationships with their customers to determine whether they can lawfully call a customer, we believe that a rule consistent with the FTC's will benefit businesses by creating one uniform standard with which businesses must comply.
193. Call Abandonment. In the 2002 Notice, the Commission requested information on the use of predictive dialers and the harms that result when predictive dialers abandon calls. In response, some small businesses urged the Commission to adopt a maximum rate of zero on abandoned calls. They described their frustration over hang-up calls that interrupt their work and with answering the phone “only to find complete silence on the other end.” Mathemaesthetics Comments at 6. Most industry members encouraged the Commission to adopt an abandonment rate of no less than five percent, claiming that this rate “minimizes abandoned calls, while still allowing for the substantial benefits achieved by predictive dialers.” WorldCom Reply at 18-19. The Commission has determined that a three percent maximum rate on abandoned calls balances the interests of businesses that derive economic benefits from predictive dialers and consumers who find intrusive those calls delivered by predictive dialers. We believe that this alternative, a rate of three percent, will also benefit small businesses that are affected by interruptions from hang-ups and “dead air” calls.
194. The three percent rate will be measured over a 30-day period, rather than on a per day basis. Industry members maintained that a per day measurement would not account for short-term fluctuations in marketing campaigns and may be overly burdensome to smaller telemarketers. We believe that measuring the three percent rate over a longer period of time will still reduce the overall number of abandoned calls, yet permit telemarketers to manage individual calling campaigns effectively. It will also permit telemarketers to more easily comply with the recordkeeping requirements associated with the use of predictive dialers.
195. Unsolicited Facsimile Advertising. The record reveals that facsimile advertising can both benefit and harm small businesses with limited resources. The small businesses and organizations that rely upon faxing as a cost-effective way to advertise insist that the Commission allow facsimile advertising to continue. Other small businesses contend that facsimile advertising interferes with their daily operations, increases labor costs, and wastes resources such as paper and toner. The Commission has reversed its prior conclusion that an established business relationship provides companies with the necessary express permission to send faxes to their customers. Under the amended rules, a business may advertise by fax with the prior express permission of the fax recipient, which must be in writing. Businesses may obtain such written permission through direct mail, Web sites, or during interaction with customers in their stores. This alternative will benefit those small businesses, which are inundated with unwanted fax advertisements.
196. Web site or Toll-Free Number to Access Company-Specific Lists and to Confirm Requests. Lastly, the Commission has determined not to require businesses to provide a Web site or toll-free number for consumers to request placement on company-specific do-not-call lists or to respond affirmatively to do-not-call requests or otherwise provide some means of confirmation that consumers have been added to a company's do-not-call list. Several commenters indicated that such requirements would be costly to small businesses. Although we believe these measures would improve the ability of consumers to register do-not-call requests, we agree that such requirements would be potentially costly to businesses, particularly small businesses. Instead, we believe that the national do-not-call registry will provide consumers with a viable alternative if they are concerned that their company-specific do-not-call requests are not being honored. In addition, consumers may pursue a private right of action if there is a violation of the do-not-call rules. This alternative should reduce, for small businesses who engage in telemarketing, both the potential cost and resource burdens of maintaining company-specific lists.
197. Report to Congress: The Commission will send a copy of the Order, including this FRFA, in a report to be sent to Congress pursuant to the Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. 801(a)(1)(A). In addition, the Commission will send a copy of the Order, including this FRFA, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the SBA. A copy of the Order and FRFA (or summaries thereof) will also be published in the Federal Register.
198. Accordingly, pursuant to the authority contained in Sections 1-4, 222, 227, and 303(r) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended; 47 U.S.C. 151-154, 222 and 227; and 47 CFR 64.1200 of the Commission's rules, and the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act, Public Law 108-10, 117 Stat. 557, the Report and Order in CG Docket No. 02-278 IS ADOPTED, and Parts 64 and 68 of the Commission's rules, 47 CFR Parts 64.1200, 64.1601, and 68.318, are amended as set forth in the attached Rule Changes. Effective August 25, 2003, except for 47 CFR 64.1200(c)(2), which contains the national do-not-call rules, which will go into effect on October 1, 2003; 47 CFR 64.1200(a)(5) Start Printed Page 44177and (6) which contain the call abandonment rules, which will go into effect on October 1, 2003; 47 CFR 64.1601(e), which contains the caller ID rules, which will go into effect on January 29, 2004; and §§64.1200(a)(3)(i), (d)(1), (d)(3), (d)(6), (f)(3) and (g)(1), which contain information collection requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) that have not been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Commission will publish a document in the Federal Register announcing the effective date for those sections.
199. The comments addressing the applicability of the informal complaint rules to telemarketers ARE INCORPORATED into CI Docket 02-32.
200. The Commission's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau shall have authority to issue any reports to Congress as required by the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act.
201. The Commission's Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Reference Information Center, SHALL SEND a copy of this Report and Order, including the Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis, to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.Start List of Subjects
List of Subjects in 47 CFR Parts 64 and 68
Federal Communications Commission.
William F. Caton,
Final RulesStart Amendment Part
For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Federal Communications Commission amends parts 64 and 68 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:End Amendment Part Start Part
PART 64—MISCELLANEOUS RULES RELATING TO COMMON CARRIERSEnd Part Start Amendment Part
1. The authority citation for part 64 continues to read:End Amendment Part Start Amendment Part
2. Subpart L is amended by revising the subpart heading to read as follows:End Amendment Part
Subpart L—Restrictions on Telemarketing and Telephone Solicitation
3. Section 64.1200 is revised to read as follows:End Amendment Part
(a) No person or entity may: (1) Initiate any telephone call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice,
(i) To any emergency telephone line, including any 911 line and any emergency line of a hospital, medical physician or service office, health care facility, poison control center, or fire protection or law enforcement agency;
(ii) To the telephone line of any guest room or patient room of a hospital, health care facility, elderly home, or similar establishment; or
(iii) To any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other radio common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call.
(2) Initiate any telephone call to any residential line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party, unless the call,
(i) Is made for emergency purposes,
(ii) Is not made for a commercial purpose,
(iii) Is made for a commercial purpose but does not include or introduce an unsolicited advertisement or constitute a telephone solicitation,
(iv) Is made to any person with whom the caller has an established business relationship at the time the call is made, or
(v) Is made by or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
(3) Use a telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine,
(i) For purposes of paragraph (a)(3) of this section, a facsimile advertisement is not “unsolicited” if the recipient has granted the sender prior express invitation or permission to deliver the advertisement, as evidenced by a signed, written statement that includes the facsimile number to which any advertisements may be sent and clearly indicates the recipient's consent to receive such facsimile advertisements from the sender.
(ii) A facsimile broadcaster will be liable for violations of paragraph (a)(3) of this section if it demonstrates a high degree of involvement in, or actual notice of, the unlawful activity and fails to take steps to prevent such facsimile transmissions.
(4) Use an automatic telephone dialing system in such a way that two or more telephone lines of a multi-line business are engaged simultaneously.
(5) Disconnect an unanswered telemarketing call prior to at least 15 seconds or four (4) rings.
(6) Abandon more than three percent of all telemarketing calls that are answered live by a person, measured over a 30-day period. A call is “abandoned” if it is not connected to a live sales representative within two (2) seconds of the called person's completed greeting. Whenever a sales representative is not available to speak with the person answering the call, that person must receive, within two (2) seconds after the called person's completed greeting, a prerecorded identification message that states only the name and telephone number of the business, entity, or individual on whose behalf the call was placed, and that the call was for “telemarketing purposes.” The telephone number so provided must permit any individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours for the duration of the telemarketing campaign. The telephone number may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance transmission charges. The seller or telemarketer must maintain records establishing compliance with paragraph (a)(6) of this section.
(i) A call for telemarketing purposes that delivers an artificial or prerecorded voice message to a residential telephone line that is assigned to a person who either has granted prior express consent for the call to be made or has an established business relationship with the caller shall not be considered an abandoned call if the message begins within two (2) seconds of the called person's completed greeting.
(ii) Calls made by or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not covered by paragraph (a)(6) of this section.
(7) Use any technology to dial any telephone number for the purpose of determining whether the line is a facsimile or voice line.
(b) All artificial or prerecorded telephone messages shall:
(1) At the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call. If a business is responsible for initiating the call, the name under which the entity is registered to conduct business with the State Corporation Commission (or comparable regulatory authority) must be stated, and
(2) During or after the message, state clearly the telephone number (other than that of the autodialer or prerecorded message player that placed the call) of such business, other entity, Start Printed Page 44178or individual. The telephone number provided may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance transmission charges. For telemarketing messages to residential telephone subscribers, such telephone number must permit any individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours for the duration of the telemarketing campaign.
(c) No person or entity shall initiate any telephone solicitation, as defined in paragraph (f)(9) of this section, to:
(1) Any residential telephone subscriber before the hour of 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (local time at the called party's location), or
(2) A residential telephone subscriber who has registered his or her telephone number on the national do-not-call registry of persons who do not wish to receive telephone solicitations that is maintained by the federal government. Such do-not-call registrations must be honored for a period of 5 years. Any person or entity making telephone solicitations (or on whose behalf telephone solicitations are made) will not be liable for violating this requirement if:
(i) It can demonstrate that the violation is the result of error and that as part of its routine business practice, it meets the following standards:
(A) Written procedures. It has established and implemented written procedures to comply with the national do-not-call rules;
(B) Training of personnel. It has trained its personnel, and any entity assisting in its compliance, in procedures established pursuant to the national do-not-call rules;
(C) Recording. It has maintained and recorded a list of telephone numbers that the seller may not contact;
(D) Accessing the national do-not-call database. It uses a process to prevent telephone solicitations to any telephone number on any list established pursuant to the do-not-call rules, employing a version of the national do-not-call registry obtained from the administrator of the registry no more than three months prior to the date any call is made, and maintains records documenting this process; and
(E) Purchasing the national do-not-call database. It uses a process to ensure that it does not sell, rent, lease, purchase or use the national do-not-call database, or any part thereof, for any purpose except compliance with this section and any such state or federal law to prevent telephone solicitations to telephone numbers registered on the national database. It purchases access to the relevant do-not-call data from the administrator of the national database and does not participate in any arrangement to share the cost of accessing the national database, including any arrangement with telemarketers who may not divide the costs to access the national database among various client sellers; or
(ii) It has obtained the subscriber's prior express invitation or permission. Such permission must be evidenced by a signed, written agreement between the consumer and seller which states that the consumer agrees to be contacted by this seller and includes the telephone number to which the calls may be placed; or
(iii) The telemarketer making the call has a personal relationship with the recipient of the call.
(d) No person or entity shall initiate any call for telemarketing purposes to a residential telephone subscriber unless such person or entity has instituted procedures for maintaining a list of persons who request not to receive telemarketing calls made by or on behalf of that person or entity. The procedures instituted must meet the following minimum standards:
(1) Written policy. Persons or entities making calls for telemarketing purposes must have a written policy, available upon demand, for maintaining a do-not-call list.
(2) Training of personnel engaged in telemarketing. Personnel engaged in any aspect of telemarketing must be informed and trained in the existence and use of the do-not-call list.
(3) Recording, disclosure of do-not-call requests. If a person or entity making a call for telemarketing purposes (or on whose behalf such a call is made) receives a request from a residential telephone subscriber not to receive calls from that person or entity, the person or entity must record the request and place the subscriber's name, if provided, and telephone number on the do-not-call list at the time the request is made. Persons or entities making calls for telemarketing purposes (or on whose behalf such calls are made) must honor a residential subscriber's do-not-call request within a reasonable time from the date such request is made. This period may not exceed thirty days from the date of such request. If such requests are recorded or maintained by a party other than the person or entity on whose behalf the telemarketing call is made, the person or entity on whose behalf the telemarketing call is made will be liable for any failures to honor the do-not-call request. A person or entity making a call for telemarketing purposes must obtain a consumer's prior express permission to share or forward the consumer's request not to be called to a party other than the person or entity on whose behalf a telemarketing call is made or an affiliated entity.
(4) Identification of sellers and telemarketers. A person or entity making a call for telemarketing purposes must provide the called party with the name of the individual caller, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which the person or entity may be contacted. The telephone number provided may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance transmission charges.
(5) Affiliated persons or entities. In the absence of a specific request by the subscriber to the contrary, a residential subscriber's do-not-call request shall apply to the particular business entity making the call (or on whose behalf a call is made), and will not apply to affiliated entities unless the consumer reasonably would expect them to be included given the identification of the caller and the product being advertised.
(6) Maintenance of do-not-call lists. A person or entity making calls for telemarketing purposes must maintain a record of a caller's request not to receive further telemarketing calls. A do-not-call request must be honored for 5 years from the time the request is made.
(7) Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not required to comply with 64.1200(d).
(e) The rules set forth in paragraph (c) and (d) of this section are applicable to any person or entity making telephone solicitations or telemarketing calls to wireless telephone numbers to the extent described in the Commission's Report and Order, CG Docket No. 02-278, FCC 03-153, “Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.”
(f) As used in this section:
(1) The terms automatic telephone dialing system and autodialer mean equipment which has the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers.
(2) The term emergency purposes means calls made necessary in any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.
(3) The term established business relationship means a prior or existing relationship formed by a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity and a residential subscriber with or without an exchange of consideration, on the basis of the subscriber's purchase or transaction Start Printed Page 44179with the entity within the eighteen (18) months immediately preceding the date of the telephone call or on the basis of the subscriber's inquiry or application regarding products or services offered by the entity within the three months immediately preceding the date of the call, which relationship has not been previously terminated by either party.
(i) The subscriber's seller-specific do-not-call request, as set forth in paragraph (d)(3) of this section, terminates an established business relationship for purposes of telemarketing and telephone solicitation even if the subscriber continues to do business with the seller.
(ii) The subscriber's established business relationship with a particular business entity does not extend to affiliated entities unless the subscriber would reasonably expect them to be included given the nature and type of goods or services offered by the affiliate and the identity of the affiliate.
(4) The term facsimile broadcaster means a person or entity that transmits messages to telephone facsimile machines on behalf of another person or entity for a fee.
(5) The term seller means the person or entity on whose behalf a telephone call or message is initiated for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person.
(6) The term telemarketer means the person or entity that initiates a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person.
(7) The term telemarketing means the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person.
(8) The term telephone facsimile machine means equipment which has the capacity to transcribe text or images, or both, from paper into an electronic signal and to transmit that signal over a regular telephone line, or to transcribe text or images (or both) from an electronic signal received over a regular telephone line onto paper.
(9) The term telephone solicitation means the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person, but such term does not include a call or message:
(i) To any person with that person's prior express invitation or permission;
(ii) To any person with whom the caller has an established business relationship; or
(iii) By or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
(10) The term unsolicited advertisement means any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person's prior express invitation or permission.
(11) The term personal relationship means any family member, friend, or acquaintance of the telemarketer making the call.
(g) Beginning January 1, 2004, common carriers shall:
(1) When providing local exchange service, provide an annual notice, via an insert in the subscriber's bill, of the right to give or revoke a notification of an objection to receiving telephone solicitations pursuant to the national do-not-call database maintained by the federal government and the methods by which such rights may be exercised by the subscriber. The notice must be clear and conspicuous and include, at a minimum, the Internet address and toll-free number that residential telephone subscribers may use to register on the national database.
(2) When providing service to any person or entity for the purpose of making telephone solicitations, make a one-time notification to such person or entity of the national do-not-call requirements, including, at a minimum, citation to 47 CFR 64.1200 and 16 CFR 310. Failure to receive such notification will not serve as a defense to any person or entity making telephone solicitations from violations of this section.
(h) The administrator of the national do-not-call registry that is maintained by the federal government shall make the telephone numbers in the database available to the States so that a State may use the telephone numbers that relate to such State as part of any database, list or listing system maintained by such State for the regulation of telephone solicitations.Start Amendment Part
4. Section 64.1601 is amended by adding paragraph (e) to read as follows:End Amendment Part
(e) Any person or entity that engages in telemarketing, as defined in section 64.1200(f)(7) must transmit caller identification information.
(1) For purposes of this paragraph, caller identification information must include either CPN or ANI, and, when available by the telemarketer's carrier, the name of the telemarketer. It shall not be a violation of this paragraph to substitute (for the name and phone number used in, or billed for, making the call) the name of the seller on behalf of which the telemarketing call is placed and the seller's customer service telephone number. The telephone number so provided must permit any individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours.
(2) Any person or entity that engages in telemarketing is prohibited from blocking the transmission of caller identification information.
(3) Tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are not required to comply with this paragraph.Start Part
PART 68—CONNECTION OF TERMINAL EQUIPMENT TO THE TELEPHONE NETWORKEnd Part Start Amendment Part
5. The authority citation for part 68 continues to read:End Amendment Part Start Amendment Part
6. Section 68.318 is amended by revising paragraph (d) to read as follows:End Amendment Part
(d) Telephone facsimile machines; Identification of the sender of the message. It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States to use a computer or other electronic device to send any message via a telephone facsimile machine unless such person clearly marks, in a margin at the top or bottom of each transmitted page of the message or on the first page of the transmission, the date and time it is sent and an identification of the business, other entity, or individual sending the message and the telephone number of the sending machine or of such business, other entity, or individual. If a facsimile broadcaster demonstrates a high degree of involvement in the sender's facsimile messages, such as supplying the numbers to which a message is sent, that broadcaster's name, under which it is registered to conduct business with the State Corporation Commission (or comparable regulatory authority), must be identified on the facsimile, along with the sender's name. Telephone facsimile machines manufactured on and after December 20, 1992, must clearly mark such identifying information on each transmitted page.
1. Such calls may be prohibited if they serve as a pretext to an otherwise prohibited advertisement or a means of establishing a business relationship. Moreover, responding to such a “survey” does not constitute express permission or establish a business relationship exemption for purposes of a subsequent telephone solicitation. See H.R. Rep. No. 102-317 at 13 (“[T]he Committee does not intend the term “telephone solicitation” to include public opinion polling, consumer or market surveys, or other survey research conducted by telephone. A call encouraging purchase, rental, or investment would fall within the definition, however, even though the caller purports to be taking a poll or conducting a survey.”).Back to Citation
2. This would be 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, during the particular telemarketing campaign. A seller or telemarketer's telephone number must permit consumers to make their do-not-call requests in a timely manner. Therefore, the seller or telemarketer must staff the “do-not-call number” sufficiently or use an automated system for processing requests in such a way that consumers are not placed on hold or forced to wait for an agent to answer the connection for an unreasonable length of time. We also reiterate the Commission's determination in its 1995 TCPA Reconsideration Order that any number provided for identification purposes may not be a number that requires the recipient of a solicitation to incur more than nominal costs for making a do-not-call request (i.e., for which charges exceed costs for transmission of local or ordinary station-to-station long distance calls). See 1995 TCPA Reconsideration Order, 10 FCC Rcd 12391, 12409, para. 38. See also amended 47 CFR 64.1200(b)(2).Back to Citation
3. This would mean 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. A seller or telemarketer calling on behalf of a seller must be able to record do-not-call requests at the number transmitted to consumers as caller ID. Therefore, if the person answering the calls at this number is not the sales representative who made the call or an employee of the seller or telemarketer who made the call, or if the telemarketer is using an automated system to answer the calls, the seller is nevertheless responsible for ensuring that any do-not-call request is recorded and the consumer's name, if provided, and telephone number are placed on the seller's do-not-call list at the time the request is made.Back to Citation
4. Before initiating a forfeiture proceeding against most entities that do not hold an FCC authorization, the violator must have received a Commission citation and then engaged in an additional violation. 47 U.S.C. 503(b)(5).Back to Citation
[FR Doc. 03-18766 Filed 7-24-03; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6712-01-P