A House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing Tuesday on the Federal Communications Commission’s policy decisions prompted a discussion on the application of the FCC’s rules regarding robocalls.

The FCC earlier this month released clarifications to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, including a ruling the agency believes reaffirms the TCPA’s protections against robocalls while encouraging pro-consumer uses of robocall technology.  

The ruling reiterates and simplifies key sections of the TCPA. If a caller uses an autodialer or prerecorded message to make a non-emergency call to a wireless phone, the caller must have gotten the consumer’s prior express consent or face liability for violating the TCPA. Prior express consent must be in writing if the message is a telemarketing call, but can be either oral or written if the call is informational.

The FCC in a party-line vote last month had approved new robocalling rules that mostly rejected the entreaties of banks and other companies. The rules clearly do not give banks a break with respect to debt collection calls, which have been the subject of much of the litigation against banks.

Lawmakers at Tuesday's subcommittee hearing, led by Chairman U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), questioned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler about the ruling. The questions raised the issue of whether the FCC’s overall rules on robocalls apply to lawmakers when they conduct “telephone town halls" with constituents, The Hill reports. Some subcommittee members suggested the rules should be modified to allow outreach through telephone town halls to continue, according to the article.

Wheeler told lawmakers that consumers would have to ask to receive such calls for them to be permitted. According to the article, he said, “The statute is very explicit."FCC spokesperson Will Wiquist said the FCC’s recent clarifications in its TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order do not result in new restrictions for lawmakers communicating with constituents for the town hall meetings or other outreach, The Hill also reported. 

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