Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a unanimous ruling that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s (TCPA) restrictions on the use of “artificial or prerecorded voices” apply to AI technology that generate such voices.

Late last year, the FCC indicated in a Notice of Inquiry that its authority under the TCPA encompassed regulation of AI in calling and texting. The FCC also stated, “that certain AI technologies such as ‘voice cloning’ appear to fall within the TCPA’s existing prohibition on artificial or prerecorded voice messages because this technology artificially simulates a human voice.” In response, several commenters asked whether AI technologies that simulate a human voice and/or generate call content using a prerecorded voice would be considered an “artificial or prerecorded voice” for purposes of the TCPA.

Today’s decision directly responded to those comments. The FCC found that AI technologies such as “voice cloning” fall within the TCPA’s purview because these technologies emulate real or artificially created human voices for telephone calls to consumers. “They are ‘artificial’ voice messages because a person is not speaking them, and, as a result, when used they represent the types of calls the TCPA seeks to protect consumers from.” Additionally, the FCC found that AI technology that communicates with consumers using prerecorded voice messages is “using” a “prerecorded voice” within the meaning of the TCPA.

Specifically, the FCC’s ruling that such calls fall within the scope of the TCPA means that:

  • Callers that use such technology must obtain prior express consent to initiate such calls absent an emergency purpose or exemption.
  • All artificial or prerecorded voice messages must provide certain identification and disclosure information for the entity responsible for initiating the call.
  • Where the artificial or prerecorded voice message includes an advertisement or constitutes telemarketing, it must also offer specified opt-out methods.