- October 25, 2012
- Posted by: Seth Heyman
- Categories: Marketing & Advertising Law, Regulatory Compliance
On October 17th, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) announced an additional obligation on all entities that use auto-dialed robocalls for their business that may be directed to public safety phone lines. Although robocalls to public safety phone lines are already prohibited under the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”), Congress once again addressed the issue through legislation tacked to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.
The Tax Relief Act requires the FCC to: (1) create a separate Do-Not-Call Registry for numbers associated with emergency and other public safety lines (the “Emergency DNC”); (2) prohibit the use of automatic dialing devices to contact those 911 numbers for non-emergency purposes; and (3) impose monetary penalties on any entity that discloses numbers listed on the Emergency DNC, or otherwise direct non-emergency robocalls to the Emergency DNC.
Those new monetary penalties are stiff indeed. Anyone disclosing or disseminating Emergency DNC numbers face fines of between $100,000 and $1 million per incident, and those who use an automated dialing device to call those numbers will be subject to a monetary penalty between $10,000 and $100,000 per call. The amount of the penalty to be imposed depends on factors such as negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, willfulness, and whether the violation is a first or subsequent offense.
The new rules strictly prohibit anyone, including schools and charities, to make calls or send texts to Emergency DNC numbers. Anyone seeking to access the list will need to certify that it will rent, sell, or disclose (other than for their intended purpose) the numbers on the Registry, and entities that use auto-dialers must access the list no more than 31 days prior to initiating any auto-dialing campaign. Emergency service providers will have a great deal of discretion on the numbers they choose to list on the registry, so it will likely change from month to month.
The FCC will soon release a Public Notice containing more details on how the Emergency DNC will operate, and the date on which the FCC’s new rules will become effective. In its announcement, the FCC stressed its intention to issue significant penalties for violations of the new rules. Needless to say, anyone who uses robocalls for any purpose should plan on accessing the Emergency DNC.