H.R. 3035 – The Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011
In a previous post, Proposed Act Would Permit Debt Collectors to Use Auto-Dialers to Call Cellular Telephones, H.R. 3035, the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011, was discussed and how, if passed, would likely harm consumers. The 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 contact a person on their cellular telephone. The Act was introduced by Representatives Lee Terry (R-NE) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY). It also had nine co-sponsors.
Non-Congressional Supporters and Opponents of H.R. 3035
Not surprisingly, the main organizations supporting H.R. 3035 are involved in financial services industries. The specific organizations include: American Bankers Association; ACA International; Air Transport Association; Consumer Bankers Association; Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations; Edison Electric Institute; Education Finance Council; Financial Services Roundtable; Housing Policy Council; Mortgage Bankers Association; National Association of College and University Business Officers; National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, Inc.; Student Loan Servicing Alliance; Student Loan Servicing Alliance Private Loan Committee; The Clearing House; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; SoundBite Communications Inc. (Source: Opencongress.org- H.R.3035 – Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011).
There are only two major organizations opposing the bill, the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) and Stop Political Calls.org. However, at least one state Attorney General, Indiana’s General Gregory F. Zoeller, opposes the Act.
Current Legislative Status
On September 22, 2011, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which referred it to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on September 26. Hearings were held by the Subcommittee on November 4, 2011. At the opening of the hearing, Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) remarked:
Today’s hearing is an opportunity for our Subcommittee to explore an age-old problem of legislation: How do we ensure that the laws on the books make sense given new technologies and the evolving marketplace? …
The bill [H.R. 3035] would update the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which aimed to protect telephone customers from intrusive telephone marketing while balancing those protections against the needs of businesses and non-profits to communicate and inform consumers. It did so, among other ways, by restricting the ability of telemarketers to make telephone solicitations and by prohibiting all use of automatic dialing equipment and prerecorded voice messages for calls to wireless phones. …
But I think we can all agree that any legislation should not subject consumers to unwanted telephone solicitations.
Both supporters and opponents of the bill testified or offered written testimony and evidence at the hearing. Opponents of the bill included Delicia Reynolds Hand, Legislative Director of NACA, who provided testimony and evidence as to how the Act would harm consumers.
My Letter in Opposition of the Act and the Responses
Opencongress.org is a website that permits people to obtain a lot of information about Congress as well as the ability to submit comments to their Congressional delegates. The site states:
OpenCongress brings together official government data with news coverage, blog posts, public comments, and more to give you the real story behind what’s happening in Congress. Small groups of political insiders and lobbyists already know what’s really going on in Congress. Now, everyone can be an insider.
OpenCongress is a free, open-source, not-for-profit, and non-partisan public resource website. OpenCongress is a project of the Participatory Politics Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to encourage civic engagement. The Sunlight Foundation is our Founding and Primary Supporter. (Source: http://www.opencongress.org/#pitch)
My original blog post, cited above, was picked up by Opencongress and a link to it was posted on their site. After this, on October 21, 2011, I send a “letter” through Opencongress.org to Nebraska’s Congressional members asking them to oppose the Act. There were some technical issues with my letter and the responses I received from Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns. My letter and Senator Nelson’s response may be viewed at Opencongress.org’s website (This letter was sent by OpenCongress user jlapin on October 21, 2011 in opposition to H.R.3035 Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011). Due to some apparent technical difficulties, Senator Johann’s responses were for other bills. I received a letter from him, dated October 31 although I received it on November 16, a copy of which can be viewed here. I have not received a response, either online or by mail, from any of Nebraska’s Representatives, Lee Terry, Jeff Fortenberry or Adrian Smith.
The Likely Future of The Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011
Unfortunately for consumers, the bill seems likely to pass as it seems to have bi-partisan and “big business” support. In addition, while the particular changes in the Act were not specifically addressed, President Obama seems likely to support it based on his Living Within Our Means and Investing in the Future: The President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction Report, released in September of 2011.
Call to Action- What You Can Do
H.R. 3035 will hurt consumers as it will significantly increase the potential for unfair collection activities by debt collectors and remove one of the more significant monetary deterrents to prevent or remedy these abusive tactics. While the law should evolve with technology, the Act, as written, would basically open up the floodgates to debt collectors by changing the definition of “prior express consent.” There are other ways in which the TCPA could be amended to permit calls to cellular phones without removing the threat of a TCPA claim for abusive debt collectors.
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. You can contact Nebraska’s Congressional members directly by clicking on their name below:
Representative Jeff Fortenberry
Representative Lee Terry
Representative Adrian Smith
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Mike Johanns