For Immediate Release - December 07, 2011

AG Coakley Joins 53 Other Attorneys General in Fight Against Robo-Calls to Cell Phones

Letter Sent Urges Congress to Reject Legislation Allowing Unsolicited Cell Phone Calls and Texts

BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley urged Congress to reject legislation that would allow unsolicited calls and texts to cell phones.  A letter sent this morning by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to Congress and signed by AG Coakley and 53 other state and territorial Attorneys General, recommends that Congress reject the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 [H.R. 3035].

“At both the federal and state level we have worked to prohibit these types of unwanted automated calls which are a nuisance and an invasion of privacy,” said AG Coakley.  “If this bill is passed by Congress, unsolicited calls would impose even more of a burden on consumers today, with more people relying on mobile communications for their primary phone service and paying for that service by the minute or on prepaid fixed monthly plans.”

This federal bill would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and allow debt collectors and other businesses to robo-call consumers on their cell phones. Additionally, the bill would preempt state laws regulating junk faxes, unsolicited text messages, Do Not Call registries, and automated calls. 

The NAAG letter sent this morning points out that “Congress and the states have enacted strong laws to protect consumers from unwanted and intrusive robo-calls.  Currently, federal law bans robocalls to cell phones unless the consumer gives prior express consent.  H.R. 3035 would change the law and undermine federal and state efforts to shield consumers from a flood of solicitation, marketing, debt collection and other unwanted calls and texts to their cell phones.”

The letter further describes the harmful implications the legislation will have on consumers.  One concern is that the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 would shift the cost of unwanted calls – such as debt collection and marketing calls – to consumers, placing a greater burden on low-income consumers who cannot afford to pay.  The legislation would also cause an increase in robo-calls to cell phones from businesses and charities.  Since businesses frequently have incorrect contact information, consumers could receive repeated robo-calls on their cell phones regarding accounts which are not their own. 

Additionally, the bill would make any disclosure of a cell phone number during a transaction, or at any time, equivalent to a consent to receive robo-calls.  The Attorneys General propose that instead, Congress require marketers and other businesses to obtain express written consent from consumers prior to making automated calls, and permit states to continue to enforce state laws regulating unsolicited telephone calls or faxes.

A copy of the letter signed by AG Coakley can be found on the NAAG website.

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