PIA Asks FCC to Reverse Rule Restricting

August 11, 2003

The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) on Friday filed a second formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking the federal agency to reverse a published rule that reportedly places onerous restrictions on the ability of membership associations to communicate with their members.

On July 25, the FCC published in the Federal Register new rules that will have reportedly have an adverse impact on the operation of trade associations such as PIA.

A portion of these rules prohibit associations from sending faxes that are deemed unsolicited on any topic that could be considered an advertisement, without obtaining advance written authorization. This eliminates an exception in previous FCC rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 allowing businesses including trade associations to communicate by fax with individuals with whom they have a pre-existing business relationship.

“In its infinite wisdom, the FCC is attempting to declare that the people who join an association do not have an existing business relationship with that association,” said PIA senior vice president Patricia Borowski. “Then, the FCC attempts to decide what constitutes unsolicited advertising in the day-to-day communications conducted among members of an association. The FCC is dead wrong on both counts.”

The PIA comments additionally object to the removal of the EBR as it attempts to adversely affect and interfere with faxing communications by PIA members to their clients.

Borowski said it is inconceivable and legally baseless for the FCC to conclude that no existing business relationship exists among the members of PIA, who as members own the association, and the PIA organizations under any method of communication, as well as believe that FCC rule can and should interfere with what insurance law has already decided is an EBR for our members and their clients, irrespective of communication methods.

In addition, PIA challenges FCC’s ability to implement any of its July 25, 2003 rules (for NO-FAXING and NO-CALL) until each state has formally issued its decision and instructions on how their state will specifically interface with the FCC process.

“FCC’s current integration with FTC by adopting FTC NO-CALL rules as their own, and coordination with FTC’s oversight and enforcement functions raises significant legal questions in the insurance sector. It forms a de-facto FTC oversight of insurance that FTC and Congress know is not applicable to insurance per se because of McCarran-Ferguson.” Borowski added.

“PIA is stunned by this inexplicable action by the FCC,” said PIA assistant vice president of Federal Affairs Peter Bizzozero. “PIA will aggressively pursue – whether by FCC corrective action or through action by the Administration or Congress – reinstatement of the existing business relationship exception, as well as assert that the role of states is imperative for FCC rules to apply to insurance.”

PIA is also participating as a coalition partner in a major effort to overturn the FCC fax rule by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). More than 600 associations have joined a grassroots effort to make the FCC, the Administration and members of Congress aware of the new rules and their impact on nonprofits and other businesses and overturn the rule.

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