The Telephone Consumer Protection Act plays an integral role in protecting the country’s communications customers as well as the communications system from being deluged by automated, unsolicited calls to mobile phones. This represents a compelling interest sufficient to justify any narrow restrictions on speech inherent in protecting consumers and the communications network from such calls.
Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in 1991 to curtail the burgeoning problem of robocalling, which was then proliferating using relatively new autodialing technology. Through
the TCPA, Congress sought to protect the interests of telephone consumers, businesses that relied on their
phones, as well as the communications network itself. Among other things, the TCPA imposes particularly
stringent limitations on calling cellular telephones, prohibiting almost all such calls made without the
consent of the subscriber. While the TCPA permits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or
Commission) to allow exemptions to this prohibition on calls to cellular phones, these exemptions are
constrained both by a requirement that they be limited to calls not charged to the end user and that
such exceptions be “in the interest of the privacy rights” the statute was intended to protect. 47 U.S.C.
The FCC uses the term “robocall” to mean “calls made either with an automatic telephone dialing system (‘autodialer’) or with a prerecorded or artificial voice.” In re Rules and Regulations Implementing the Tel. Consumer Prot. Act of 1991, CG Docket No. 02-278, Report and Order, 30 FCC Rcd. 7961 n.1 (F.C.C. July 10, 2015) [hereinafter 2015 TCPA Order].
In contrast to legitimate calls made by companies to their customers, the TCPA prohibition on robocalls to cellular subscribers without consent constitutes a critical protective measure that, if removed, would risk exponentially increasing the already large number of unwanted robocalls and rendering legitimate calls ineffective.