New opposition has arisen against H.R. 3035, the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011. Attorney Generals in 48 states signed a letter urging Congress to reject the bill. The proposed Act, among other things, would amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by changing the definition of “prior express consent” and permit debt collectors to use automatic telephone dialing systems (auto-dialers or robo-dialers) to call cellular phones. In previous posts, Proposed Act Would Permit Debt Collectors to Use Auto-Dialers to Call Cellular Telephones and An Update on H.R. 3035 (The Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011) and a Call to Action, H.R. 3035 was discussed, how it will likely effect consumers as well as its current legislative status.
SUPPORTERS OF THE ACT
The Act was introduced by Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY). It also had nine co-sponsors. Rep. Terry, on his website, posted his reasons for co-sponsoring the Act. He states:
The Mobile Informational Call Act reflects the reality of the day. Forty percent of Americans now use mobile phones as their primary or exclusive communications device. People need to be reached in real time if their flight is delayed, their credit card numbers have been compromised, their medications have been recalled, their electricity restored, and for other time-sensitive information they may be interested in. This bill will help consumers receive timely and accurate information as soon as possible.
The bill strictly prohibits telephone solicitations and businesses must have prior express consent to contact consumers. The President has made a similar proposal in his deficit reduction plan.
The full statement can be found here. These statements seem to indicate the changes are primarily for the benefit of the consumer rather than financial services industries, such as debt collectors. However, consumers can already permit calls to their cell phones by providing that number to entities or by affirmatively consenting to these calls. Consent should not be implied; it should require a knowingly, voluntary act by the consumer. At the initial hearings on H.R. 3035, the supporters outnumbered those opposing as well as having more financial resources at their disposal.
The letter states, in part:
Our offices protect consumers by enforcing the TCPA and state laws concerning telephone solicitations, automated calls, junk faxes and text messages. Over at least the last 22 years, Congress and the states have enacted strong laws to protect consumers from unwanted and instrusive robocalls. 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. In the process, H.R. 3035 also would shift the cost of these calls – such as debt collection and marketing calls – to consumers, placing a significant burden on low income consumers. Furthermore, H.R. 3035 will create obstacles to effective enforcement of state consumer protection laws. H.R. 3035 goes far beyond the stated goal of giving debt collectors a new avenue to contact debtors and unnecessarily allows businesses to robocall or text consumers without the consumers’ prior express consent.
We urge you to reject H.R. 3035 as harmful to consumers.
In addition, the Attorney Generals requested two changes to the TCPA to better protect consumers: (1) protect consumers’ privacy by clarifying that prior express consent to robocalls must be obtained in writing; and (2) eliminate any suggestion from the TCPA that state statutes regulating interstate telephone and fax harassment are preempted. The full letter is available here.
The only two attorney generals who did not sign are Nebraska’s Jon Bruning and Virginia’s Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II. According to statements made to the Lincoln Journal Star by Shannon Kingery, a spokeswoman for Jon Bruning, he did not sign the letter because: “We generally do not sign on to this type of letter until we know what the final bill looks like.” Hopefully Mr. Bruning, after any changes are made, will oppose the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
H.R. 3035 will significantly hurt consumers as it further burdens consumers. As the Attorney Generals and others have said, there are other less intrusive and burdensome ways to collect debt. Changing the TCPA, without increasing other consumer protections, will make it more likely debt collectors will harass and abuse consumers.
Lapin Law Offices urges you to contact your members of Congress and ask them to oppose H.R. 3035, the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011. You can do so by going to your Congressional members website, posting on OpenCongress.org, by mail or phone call. Nebraska’s Congressional members contact information may be found by clicking on their name below:
Representative Lee Terry
Representative Jeff Fortenberry
Representative Adrian Smith
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Mike Johanns
In addition, people in Nebraska and Virginia are urged to contact their Attorney Generals and request they oppose H.R. 3035:
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning
Virigina Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, II
ABOUT LAPIN LAW OFFICES
Lapin Law Offices represents consumers harassed or abused by debt collectors. You can learn more about us and about your rights by calling us at 402-421-8033 or on our websites: Lapin Law Offices or StopBadCollectors.com.