There has been much coverage lately about credit unions potentially receiving a pass from the CFPB when it comes to rule making. But the same isn’t true for TCPA regulation. Every company that calls consumers on cell phones, no matter how big or small and no matter what the reason for the call, must comply with the rules of the TCPA.
Recently I participated in a webinar discussing the TCPA and credit unions, and was surprised to learn that the bulk of the webinar attendees are not being proactive when it comes to TCPA compliance. During the webinar, attendees were polled about their current TCPA compliance. The first question related to proactively identifying cell phone numbers in their accounts.
Of the attendees, 44% were not currently doing anything to identify cell phone numbers in their accounts. We live in a litigious society. Being unaware of which numbers in your accounts belong to cell phones could result in a violation of TCPA regulations—especially if your credit union has automatic dialing technology. Calling a credit union member on their cell phone without their express consent is a violation of the TCPA if you are placing that call via a telephone system that has automatic dialing capacity. Even if you are not presently using the automatic dialing function on your calling system, and even if your system doesn’t currently have that plug-in, you can still be in violation of the TCPA.
Another question asked in the webinar pertained to whether attendees keep up with what is going on with TCPA cases and settlements in the news.
Again, the bulk of the attendees said they do not pay attention to what is happening in the news relating to the TCPA. This could also be a costly mistake. Even if your fellow credit unions aren’t hitting the headlines with violations, it doesn’t mean the same rules don’t apply to you, or you shouldn’t take time to be aware of what is going on in the credit and collections industry relating to TCPA activity.
It’s no longer only the regulators for which you have to watch out. Consumers are becoming much more savvy about screening incoming calls on their cell phones. We’ve seen a recent case where just one phone call to a consumer resulted in a lawsuit. In Sussino v. Work Out World (Case No. 15-cv-5881 (PGS)(TJB), United States District Court for the District of New Jersey), the plaintiff sued based on one phone call made to her cell phone, which she did not answer. However, a message was left, and she claimed that the one minute and six seconds it took her to pick up that message caused nuisance and invasion of privacy, trespass and interference with her rights and interest in her cell phone, intrusion on her seclusion, aggravation and annoyance, a waste of her time, loss of the use of her phone while listening to the message and depletion of her cell phone battery. While we may agree that these claims are ridiculous—in fact, the judge thought so, too—the defendant still had to pay an attorney to defend those ridiculous claims.
There are many companies that offer cell phone identification. A simple scrub of your database to get a baseline, and then a monitoring solution to watch for changes in the status of phone numbers, can be a great insurance policy for your credit union. You can no longer afford to be in the dark when it comes to cell phone numbers in your portfolio.