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Joint Trades Comment Letter on Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling, Clarification, or Waiver Filed by the ABA et al., Rules and Regulations Implementing the TCPA of 1991
Dear Ms. Dortch:
The American Bankers Association (ABA), American Financial Services Association, Consumer Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, Mortgage Bankers Association, and National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions1 (collectively, the Associations) appreciate the opportunity to submit this reply comment in support of the petition we filed on March 30, 2020 (Petition). In the Petition, the Associations ask the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) to issue an expedited declaratory ruling, clarification, or waiver stating that phone calls and text messages placed by banks, credit unions, and other customer-facing financial service providers using an automatic telephone dialing system (autodialer) or prerecorded or artificial voice on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic are “call[s] made for emergency purposes,” and therefore, may be placed without the consent of the called party under the “emergency purposes” exception to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) consent requirement (Emergency Purposes Exception).
The record in this proceeding demonstrates broad support for the Petition and the need for the Commission to act immediately. Business groups, consumer groups, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau), and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly all have expressed support for the Commission taking favorable action on the Petition to facilitate the consumer-benefitting, informational calls that financial institutions seek to make to assist consumers in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. These calls must be placed using automated means, not manual dialing. However, because of the threat of class-action litigation, financial institutions are reluctant to contact those consumers for whom the institution does not have documented consent to call, depriving millions of consumers of important and time-sensitive COVID-19-related informational messages.
Commissioner O’Rielly described the Petition as “[v]ery reasonable,” and urged the Commission to act with “urgency,” calling on the Commission to rule on the Petition prior to the closing of the comment period. The Bureau expressed its support for including within the Emergency Purposes Exemption a limited number of financial institutions’ automated COVID-19-related calls that offer forbearance, payment deferrals, fee waivers, extension or relaxation of repayment terms, or loan modifications on loans secured by homes or vehicles. In a subsequent action, the Bureau emphasized (in the context of open-end credit) the importance of communications from financial institutions to consumers: “[o]pen end non-home secured creditors may communicate proactively with consumers to provide helpful information and resources. . . . Communicating in advance with consumers, before they may encounter unexpected problems, may help educate them with respect to common problems and potential resources to help solve such problems.”