Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Declaratory Ruling stating that existing federal regulations related to using “an artificial or prerecorded voice” to deliver a telephone message, also encompass voices generated by artificial intelligence (AI).  The ruling does not expand prohibitions or definitions set forth in the applicable law – the  Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – but rather clarifies that AI technology mimicking a human voice is “an artificial or prerecorded voice” under the TCPA.  In this way, the FCC intends to prevent the exploitation of any perceived ambiguity in the law.

The TCPA prohibits, with some exceptions, “any telephone call to any residential telephone line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express consent of the called party.”  47 USC 227(b).  But the statute does not define the terms “artificial” or “prerecorded voice.”  The FCC’s ruling, though, confirms that an AI-generated human voice is indeed “an artificial or prerecorded voice.”

In November, the FCC sought comment on the regulatory implications of emerging AI technologies, including emulating human speech during customer interactions and cloning of famous or otherwise recognizable voices.  At that time, the FCC expressed its view that existing TCPA rules on robocalls already encompassed the use of AI technologies to communicate with consumers using prerecorded voice messages.  According to the FCC, several commenters asked the FCC to confirm this conclusion, and no commenter opposed.

As a result of the ruling, the FCC leaves no doubt that using AI technology to make telephone calls does not create any sort of carve-out, nor does it otherwise exempt a caller from the existing TCPA rules on making robocalls including, depending on the circumstances, obtaining prior express consent, providing certain identification and disclosure information, and offering specified opt-out methods.

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