Evaluating the progress of Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

According to lexology.com, which provides tracking of various legal issues, some cases regarding the application of the TCPA in inmate communication services. FCC application of the Act notably recently in changing the maximum rates applicable for calls continues to be disputed in courts. In one of the cases, the FCC argued that callback services and missed calls were used to bleed dry family accounts with communication providers. The argument follows the new revelation that communication providers charged as much for a missed call as if the call was answered and completed.

The Network Communications International Corp (NCIC) applied to be allowed to send a follow-up message when the ICS call or collect call from an inmate to a family at home was unanswered. The argument is that people are suspicious of unknown identification, and most prison service IDs are not commonplace. A collect call may be ignored on that basis. A text will clarify, and the family member may pick the call the next time. This will make the costs of connecting calls to go down.

However, the FCC is wary of the allowance because such follow-up communication is billed to the family. This comes at a time when the FCC does not trust that the prison communication service is implementing low-cost rates. The FCC is hoping to have control of the call rate system through the introduction of caps, but service providers have blocked their implementation. Inmate communication services are likely to continue to be offered in a legal impasse as providers continue to defy any such caps.

Although there is a similar permutation of the TCPA exemption, it does not quite clearly capture the scenario that NCIC is going through. If a recipient has blocked collect calls or fails to recognize caller ID, there is no way through. It makes sense to have the exemption, but the foreshadowing precedence of further stretching the families of inmates is keeping inmates lonely at risk of relapse.

The matter is still under review, and this article only points out to status and the backdrop of the forces that are likely to impact the ruling.