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FTC SEEKS COMMENT ON WAYS TO STRENGTHEN CALLER ID RULES

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday published an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking comment on possible changes to the caller identification (caller ID) provisions of its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). Since 2003, the TSR has required telemarketers over which the FTC has jurisdiction (which generally does not include financial institutions) to transmit identifying information to caller ID services. The ANPR does not propose specific amendments to the TSR, but rather requests public comment on (i) whether it would be possible to amend the TSR to promote the delivery of more reliable or specific caller ID information, (ii) how caller ID is being used by consumers and regulated parties and (iii) how telemarketers and their service providers may use caller ID technologies in ways that are benign or abusive.

The ANPR also includes a list of specific questions. For example, should the Commission amend the TSR to:

  • Require that telemarketers use technologies or subscribe to services that provide caller name identification?
  • Specify the characteristics of telephone numbers transmitted, such as requiring that the number transmitted be a number that:
    • Is listed in publicly available directories as the telephone number of the telemarketer, seller or charitable organization (collectively, the “caller”)?
    • Has an area code and prefix associated with the physical location or principal place of business of the caller?
    • Is answered by live representatives or automated services that identify the caller by name?
    • Provides for prompt and easy communication with the live representatives of the caller? or
    • Is the number listed in direct mail solicitations or other advertising as the telephone number for the caller?

Comments must be received by January 28, 2010.

The TSR is not the only law regulating caller ID information. Regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (which does apply to financial institutions) require callers to transmit certain caller identification information. See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1601. The FTC has addressed the manipulation of caller ID information in the context of debt collection enforcement actions. See FTC v. EMC Mortgage Corp., No. 4:08-cv-338 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 9, 2008) (alleging that a debt collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Federal Trade Commission Act by causing a borrower’s caller id device to (i) display the borrower’s local area code even though the debt collector was not calling from that area code and (ii) not display the debt collector’s name). A few states have Anti-Caller ID Spoofing Acts, which prohibit knowingly inserting “false information” into a caller identification system. See, e.g., La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1741.1 et seq. In addition, federal legislation has been proposed. See, e.g., the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 (S. 30).

Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about the ANPR or compliance with current federal or state caller ID laws.

  • Judy Scheiderer