A July 25 hearing at the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, Congressmen grilled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a wide variety of topics, including the Telerphone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and illegal robocalls.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) noted that, “back in March after a very long wait, the D.C. circuit court issued its opinion on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In particular, this ruling invalidated the definition of an autodialer and also did away with the commission's reassigned number and safe harbor rules.

Then he asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, “In light of this opinion, what action is the FCC taking to establish valid TCPA definitions and rules that target bad actors, but do not put everyday Americans at risk to lawsuits?”

The FCC is “still actively studying the results of the opinion,” said Chairman Pai, “and we're working with our staff on the way forward on some of the key issues they identified, the definition of autodialer, reassigned number database, revocation of consent and the like.” While he could not provide a specific timeline, Pai told the Congressman that his agency is “actively looking at a variety of TCPA issues as a result of the D.C. circuit's decision.”

The Insights Association joined comments in support of broad TCPA reform, which we hope the FCC will enact soon, along with our own petition to properly differentiate marketing from marketing research.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17) wanted to know what the FCC was doing about illegal robocalls and “stopping the spoofing of phone numbers.”

Pai responded that the agency is “doing a lot,” that that it is an issue that frustrates him personally. “Even last week when I was vacation, I spent several minutes on a phone with several robocallers trying to figure out who they were, how they got my information and the like.” Since he became chairman, Pai said that the FCC has “adopted a notice of inquiry on call authentication, essentially digital fingerprints for every single phone call,” and “blessed the private sector group called NANSI which is looking at call authentication.”

Pai continued, saying that the FCC is also telling telecommunications “carriers to block spoof calls, that is calls that obviously aren't from your area code, but nonetheless appear to be,” while the agency pursues a “reassigned number database to allow those legitimate callers to know whether or not a number has been reassigned to somebody who doesn't want to be called.”

The agency is also taking “aggressive action in terms of enforcement,” Pai said, including “the largest fine ever imposed in the FCC's entire history” for a Florida “robocaller” for “about $120 million,” while also trying to work with foreign authorities to track down the worst scam operators, since FCC jurisdiction “stops at the water’s edge.”

Flores ended his line of questioning by asking if the FCC needed “additional statutory authority at this stage of the game to be able to fight this epidemic.” Pai responded that the FCC’s authority is already “fairly broad,” but he would be happy to have “more tools” and lengthier “statutes of limitations” if Congress would offer them.