John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The TCPA Exemption

Posted on October 29, 2014
Telephone keys.JPG

"Telephone keys". Via Wikipedia.

I don’t ever answer my hard-line when I am at home.

Especially during election season.

I must get between 20 and 30 phone calls a day, none of which is answered.

When I do pick up the phone, I usually am asked to participate in a survey, give money or support gun rights, the Tea Party or some other group.

Once, I had a phone call from Mitt Romney.  On tape, of course.

In 1991, the Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Before there was an Internet, before there was an iPhone, before there was a Google, there were robocalls and robofaxes.

These were efforts by direct marketers to advertise directly to consumers by pounding them day after day with phone calls and faxes, on the theory that if you knock on a hundred doors, you might get one to answer.

And what better way to do it than robotically.

The TCPA was aimed at commercial enterprises.

One group was exempted.  Can you guess?

Yep, politicians, political campaigns, and other non-profits.

If a commercial enterprise does not get explicit approval to market to somebody via phone, text or fax (and for you young kids, a Fax is what was sent electronically before everybody had email), they can be liable for a fine of up to $500.

To some folks, that can mean a lot of money.  If you send out 100,000 blast faxes to your list (or texts or robocalls), and you get caught not getting prior approval, you can be liable for a pretty big fine.

Some enterprising trial lawyers have actually used this law to sue some private companies for millions of dollars.

On the one hand, I appreciate the effort to reign in annoying phone calls.  On the other hand, I am pretty sure that consumers will get no more than 1 penny per dollar from the trial lawyers, because that’s how they roll.

My biggest complaint is that politicians aren’t included in this law.

I probably want to hear more from the local Toyota dealer about a great new sale on next year’s Camry than I want to hear from a push-pollster who is saying nasty things about my friends running for Congress.

And yet the exemption continues.

So, next time you are sitting at home, getting barraged with phone calls from all kinds of political types, think about the TCPA and about how the political class made darn sure to allow itself to keep pestering you with phone calls at all hours of the night.

One of the planks in the Contract with America was the demand that politicians not exempt themselves from the laws they pass on to everybody else.  I wish that would apply to the TCPA.