October 27, 2017

FTC:Watch quotes Dan Blynn about what constitutes a robocall

2 min

Dan Blynn was quoted in an FTC:Watch article on October 27, 2017, about the fight over what constitutes a robocall, which will continue next month in a federal appellate court in a case being closely watched by the telemarketing industry.

The case centers on whether the Federal Trade Commission improperly changed course last year from a position that it had held since 2009. The agency decided that telemarketing calls that use technology that includes a live agent — unlike the usual robocalls that are one-way automated telemarketing messages — are subject to the same prohibitions that apply to robocalls.

If the FTC's position is allowed to stand, it "will have potentially dire consequences for telemarketers who use soundboard to facilitate outbound sales calls or calls seeking charitable donations," according to a blog post by Venable earlier this year.

Blynn noted in an interview that the FTC's course reversal is especially noteworthy because such a shift has never occurred before. Venable had a paralegal "literally go through every one" of the agency’s advisory opinions to find a similar reversal.

"It is the first time that the FTC at least as far as we can tell from the Bureau of Consumer Protection, from all of their hundreds of advisory opinions…reversed course on a longstanding advisory opinion," he said.

"They did a complete about-face," he added. "And nothing has changed. The technology has not changed — just the number of complaints."

"The FTC has a wide range of options in pursuing the actors who are abusing the technology — rather than imposing a complete ban on the technology," he said.

Blynn pointed to real world consequences if the FTC's position is sustained. "Many companies utilize soundboard technology so that disabled persons, including veterans, can work in the telemarketing industry," he wrote in an e-mail. "So, this is a huge case on that front."