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CUNA to Lawmakers: Autocall Rule Threatens Accountholder Contacts
Thursday, November 19, 2015 6:40 AM

The U.S. Congress must act to "illuminate the negative consequences" of a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that threatens the ability of credit unions and other financial institutions to communicate with their members and customers about pertinent account information, CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle urged Tuesday.

Nussle sent a strong letter to the leadership of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in advance of its FCC oversight hearing.

In late June, the FCC took aim at "robocalling" and issued a "clarification" of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requirements. They prohibit using an artificial or prerecorded voice to make telemarketing calls to residential telephones without prior express consent.

Nussle noted in his letter that, while the FCC purported to recognize the importance of communications between financial institutions and consumers, its ruling "in practicality creates obstacles to credit unions’ ability to communicate with their members."

Making the bad situation even worse, Nussle said, the "clarification" went into effect after being agreed upon at an FCC meeting, without being put out as a proposed rulemaking with a notice and comment period.

"As soon as it was released, credit unions were sent into a state of disarray about how they could instantaneously comply with a document that is well over 100 pages, and is filled with onerous language and unclear nuances," he said. "It has been problematic for credit unions with fewer compliance resources, but has also been extremely problematic for those more likely to face frivolous class action lawsuits when there is ambiguity in the law."

CUNA supports the concept of preserving consumers’ rights to privacy on their cell phones and protecting financial information. However, Nussle underscored that the FCC order goes far beyond the scope or purpose of the TCPA, which was enacted back in 1991. He went on to warn, "Furthermore, it disregards consumers’ preferences to use new technologies and modern forms of communication."

Additional problems cited by CUNA include:

  • An existing exemption for financial institutions in the order provides minimal relief, Nussle warned, because the conditions for a call to qualify are close to impossible to meet; and
  • There is extensive uncertainty, due to the rule's "expansive" language, as to what is considered an "autodialer" and thereby covered by the FCC order.

Nussle concluded his letter by offering to work with Congress and the Obama administration to create a rule that protects the consumer, while ensuring credit unions can freely communicate with their members.