Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Trade Groups Urge FCC to Facilitate COVID-19 Related Calls

As financial institutions seek to contact customers with COVID-19-related information, seven financial trade groups filed a petition requesting that the Federal Communications Commission issue an expedited declaratory ruling or waiver confirming that financial institutions’ COVID-19-related calls are exempt from the requirements of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The TCPA requires banks and other callers to obtain the customer’s prior express consent prior to placing an autodialed call, but exempts calls placed for “emergency purposes.”

These phone calls and text messages may include outreach to customers and members (hereinafter referred to collectively, as consumers) to offer payment deferrals, fee waivers, extension of repayment terms, or other delays in payment, modification, or forbearance on mortgage payments or other loans; to advise consumers of branch closings, service limitations, reduced hours, or the availability of remote banking or other remote access options; to warn consumers of potential fraud on the consumer’s account; or otherwise to make consumers aware of programs, relief, and resources offered by the institution in response to the pandemic.

The trade groups urged the FCC to confirm that COVID-19-related calls placed by financial institutions fall within the emergency purposes exception. “If financial institutions cannot freely communicate with consumers, it will thwart the directives issued by the [CFPB] and the federal banking agencies encouraging financial institutions to ‘work constructively’ with consumers impacted by COVID-19,” the groups wrote. “Constructive engagement with consumers is best achieved by proactive communication via automated phone call or text message by the institution.”

The seven trade groups were American Bankers Association, 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 Unions.

Read the petition.

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