It's time to make the Telephone Consumer Protection Act work for CUs

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The Credit Union National Association recently filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking for much needed regulatory relief concerning the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. As the way we communicate has evolved, so has the need for consumers to get real-time information as soon as possible, but credit unions need to be able to do this without running into legal traps.

The FCC issued a TCPA order in July 2015, an order we believe has added to a fractured regulatory landscape that is impeding the ability of credit unions to contact their members with important financial information. A recent CUNA survey found that more than 75 percent of credit unions reported difficulties determining whether their communications comply with the TCPA.

This confusion – coupled with the potential liability, should a credit union miscalculate whether an exemption applies or what an unclear definition really means – is leading credit unions to curtail communications with members. More than one in three credit unions using text messages to contact members have cut back or discontinued the practice.

This all comes as consumers are increasingly shifting away from landlines and voice calls into the world of text messages and mobile devices. At the same time, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is urging financial institutions to provide real-time information to consumers through text messages and other mobile device methods.

We filed our petition to resolve these conflicting priorities from federal agencies.

In the petition, we respectfully ask the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that wireless informational calls to credit union members where: A) the credit union has an established business relationship, or B) the call or text is in fact free (as a reported 90 percent are), be made exempt from the TCPA’s prior express consent requirement.

A credit union’s members are also its owners, and that role means credit union members want and expect information about their own financial status and opportunities for governance.

It’s important to note: we are not seeking relief for telemarketing calls. We’ve made it very clear that this petition isn’t an attempt to spam consumers, but rather to make sure credit unions have the ability to use modern means of communication to get important information to the people that need it.

Adopting our petition would restore the balance Congress sought to achieve between consumer privacy interests and the legitimate need for businesses to contact consumers.

Credit unions are extremely active in providing financial literacy resources to their communities, covering the entire lifecycle of a member from introductory information for youths to information combatting the abuse of seniors. Commenting on this point, CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted at a recent Credit Union Advisory Council meeting that “I have seen firsthand the important role that credit unions play in the lives of so many consumers and communities,” and that credit unions “take your responsibility to your members very seriously, and many of you have been pacesetters as consumer educators.”

Contacting members via phone call or text is an important component of credit unions’ financial educational efforts.

The TCPA was put into place as a way to protect consumers, and by adopting our proposed exemptions, the FCC can eliminate much of the unnecessary confusion and uncertainty that has resulted from a patchwork of conflicting and onerous requirements surrounding the TCPA.

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