Attorney General Sam Olens today joined 53 other attorneys general in asking Congress to oppose legislation targeting consumers’ telephone privacy. The “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011” [H.R. 3035] would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and allow for robo-calling to all cell phones, leaving consumers to foot the bill, Olens said. For example, debt collectors and other businesses could place automated “informational” calls to cell phones, impacting those who pay by the minute or have a limited number of minutes available.
In addition, since businesses frequently have the wrong contact information, consumers could be receiving and paying for repeated robo-calls on their cell phones to accounts that are not their own.
This legislation would narrow the definition of what constitutes an illegal “automatic telephone dialing system.” If passed, the new definition would only prohibit “random or sequential number generators” which means “targeted” calls would be permitted, Olens said.
Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to individuals who have given their explicit consent to receive them or in case of an emergency. If this federal legislation passes, the law will be expanded to allow businesses to robo-call any consumer who has provided their telephone number in the course of a transaction – regardless of whether a consumer asks not to be contacted.
In the letter, the attorneys general also pointed out that an increase in calls to mobile phones could present a hazard to drivers who may become distracted. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that cell phone use was involved in 995 or 18 percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes.
The proposal is currently being considered in the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the first step in the legislative process. Citizens can also voice their opinion on the proposal by contacting their representative or by voting on Popvox’s nonpartisan website. Popvox will also forward consumers’ comments to members of Congress.
The following Attorneys General signed onto the letter: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
A copy of the letter is attached.