April 12, 2016

Political Candidates Must Abide by TCPA Laws, Too

The presidential election is fast approaching, so Americans can expect an increased number of phone calls urging them to vote for each candidate. These campaign callers must be careful, however, due to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules that regulate the use of automated telephone dialing systems (ATDS) and prohibit the use of an ATDS from dialing a wireless telephone number. Telephone Political campaigns and Political Action Committees (PACs) could accrue large fines if they do not consider the possibility that they are regulated by the TCPA, which is intended to regulate telephone solicitations.

In 2014, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau sent out an “Enforcement Advisory” to remind campaign callers that the TCPA regulations apply, particularly those that regulate the use of an ATDS, to political type calls. The TCPA regulations do differ if the call is placed to a landline or a cell phone. There are absolute prohibitions on making prerecorded, autodialed campaign calls to emergency phone lines, hospitals, toll free lines, or nursing homes.

Some campaign callers try to get around these regulations by claiming that their calls fall under the “emergency purpose” TCPA exemption. However, the FCC says that they do not view the calls that way, and they would still be subject to the TCPA.

While manually dialed calls would be capable to reaching more consumers, particularly those consumers who only have a wireless telephone number, Campaigns and PACs prefer autodialed calls, because they are much more cost effective and efficient in reaching a larger number of telephone numbers in a short timeframe. There is a tough call needing to be made in regards to efficiency in time and cost versus having to be aware of all TCPA rules and restrictions.

A legal case is already on record in Chicago, where a man filed a class action suit against a candidate for Commissioner of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Cary Wolovick claims in the suit that candidate, Andrew Seo and his campaign, placed calls to his wireless phone an ATDS that would leave an automated message in violation of the TCPA.

In 2015, Gallup failed to follow TCPA guidelines when they called cell phones using ATDS. They were forced to pay out $12 million to settle the class action suit.