Following up on its initial notice from last September, the Federal Communications Commission (the Commission) has released a draft Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address unwanted text messages that “invade consumer privacy and are vehicles for consumer fraud and identity theft.” The Commission will consider adopting the proposed rules at its March 16 open meeting.
The draft Report and Order (R&O) includes two main requirements:
- Blocking of Certain Text Messages – All mobile wireless providers would have to block, at the network level, texts purporting to be from numbers on a reasonable “Do-Not-Originate (DNO) list. These would include numbers that purport to be from invalid, unallocated, or unused North American Numbering Plan (i.e., standard) numbers and numbers for which the subscriber to the number has requested that texts purporting to originate from that number be blocked. As the R&O states, these are texts that “no reasonable consumer would wish to receive because they are highly likely to be illegal.” Text messages from valid short-codes are not included.
- Single Point of Contact – Each mobile wireless provider would have to provide a single point of contact for text senders posted on public-facing websites. The purpose is to permit texters to contact such providers to lodge and resolve complaints of unwarranted blocking of text messages.
The draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) seeks comment on additional protections for consumers against illegal and unwarranted texting in four ways.
- Blocking Texts Upon Commission Notification – The FNPRM proposes to require terminating mobile wireless providers to investigate and block texts from a sender after they are on notice that the sender is transmitting suspected illegal texts.
- Extending Do-Not-Call Protections to Text Messages – The FNPRM proposes to extend to text messages the extant FCC protections regarding telephone solicitation calls to numbers listed on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.
- Closing the Lead Generator Loophole – This proposal would apply to both calls and text messages. The FNPRM proposes to ban the practice of obtaining single customer consent as grounds for delivering calls and text messages from multiple marketers on subjects beyond the scope of the consumer’s original consent. It also seeks comment on a proposal that prior express consent to receive calls or texts must be made directly to one entity at a time.
- Digital Equity and Inclusion – Finally, the FNPRM seeks comment on how the foregoing proposals may “promote or inhibit advances in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.”
The provisions of the final R&O would be effective 30 days after their publication in the Federal Register. For the FNPRM, there would be a 60-day comment period starting with that publication, with initial comments due 30 days after publication and replies due by the end of the 60-day period.