The American Bankers Association, Consumer Bankers Association, AFSA, Credit Union National Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, Mortgage Bankers Association, and National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions filed a petition for expedited declaratory ruling with the Federal Communications Commission. The petition seeks an expedited declaratory ruling confirming that phone calls and text messages placed by banks, credit unions, and other customer facing financial services using an auto dialer or prerecorded or artificial voice on matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic be deemed calls made for emergency purposes pursuant to 47 USC § 227 (b)(1)(A), and thus may be placed without the consent of the called party.
The financial institutions seek to place informational calls to consumers to make them aware of programs, relief and resources offered by the institutions in response to the COIVD-19 pandemic. Content of the informational calls include, but are not limited to: payment deferrals, modifications, extensions, fraud alerts, advise of branch closings, service limitations, reduced hours, or the availability of remote banking options. The financial institutions assert that manual dialing will not provide timely notification to consumers and other means of communication are not as effective. The financial institutions also anticipate reductions in staff, which will result in reduced call center capacity, and necessitates the use of autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages to communicate with consumers quickly and efficiently. The financial institutions informational calls placed will not be made for advertising, telemarketing, or debt collection purposes.
There is currently no guidance from the Federal Communications Commission or judicial precedent regarding the application of the Emergency Purposes Exception in the context of calls or text messages place by financial institutions during a public health emergency. This petition seeks guidance on this issue to avoid the threat of class action litigation in the future.
A copy of the Petition can be found at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10330137314199/ABA_JointTrades_Petition_Emergency_Purposes_Exception_2020_03_30_final.pdf