Given the increasing power of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to generate content that mimics human voices, the FCC issued a unanimous Declaratory Ruling clarifying that current AI technologies that generate human voices constitute “artificial or prerecorded voices” subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA protects consumers from unwanted calls made using artificial or prerecorded voices by prohibiting the making of such calls to residential and wireless lines without the prior express consent of the party receiving the call.   

With this Declaratory Ruling, the FCC seeks to deter negative uses of AI and ensure that the protection of the TCPA covers emerging technologies without unintentionally creating carve-outs for technologies that may otherwise be able to exploit perceived ambiguities in the FCC’s rules. Chairwoman Rosenworcel cited a recent scam perpetrated against potential primary voters in New Hampshire who received a call with an AI-generated voice that seemed to be that of President Biden, and which urged potential voters not to vote in the upcoming election. Other scams target parents or grandparents with voices that appear to be those of their children or grandchildren and request money to help the “child” get out of trouble. 

While the FCC’s primary target is scammers, the Declaratory Ruling makes clear that the TCPA applies to all calls made using an artificial or prerecorded voice. “[T]he TCPA’s demands fully apply to those calls and, thus, consumers can themselves choose whether to receive them.” Even if a live agent selects the prerecorded message to be played, the TCPA requires prior express consent from the called party. “[T]he presence of a live agent on a call selecting the prerecorded messages to be played ‘does not negate the clear statutory prohibition against initiating a call using a prerecorded or artificial voice.’” Likewise, “this rationale applies to AI technologies, including those that either wholly simulate an artificial voice or resemble the voice of a real person taken from an audio clip to make it appear as though that person is speaking on the call to interact with consumers.”   

For both businesses that rely on telephone sales or marketing and telecommunications providers that offer outbound calling platforms, now is a good time to review your TCPA compliance polices generally and to ensure those policies cover AI-generated voices. If you have any questions or would like assistance with TCPA compliance, please contact your FHH attorney.