60,000 Consumers Call On FCC To Not Allow Robocalls To Cellphones

Earlier this year, we told you how the American Bankers Association was seeking exemptions from the FCC that would allow banks to get around a law that forbids businesses from robocalling cellphones without prior approval. Today, 60,000 consumers are telling the FCC to just say now to the banks’ request.

As a refresher, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans robocalls to cellphones unless the recipient has already given consent to be contacted at that specific phone number.

But the ABA is seeking exemptions from this prohibition in four circumstances that it believes justify automated calls:
1. To contact consumers about possible fraud or identity theft;
2. To alert consumers of that their personal information may have been breached;
3. To advise consumers on steps they can take to prevent or remedy harm caused by data breaches;
4. To let a customer know of actions needed to arrange for receipt of pending money transfers.

Several advocacy groups — including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National
Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, National Consumers League, Consumer Action, Public Citizen, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and Consumer Federation of America — pointed out in response that if these calls are so important, there’s no reasons the banks can’t have actual humans make them.

And there’s nothing to stop banks and other businesses from asking customers to opt into these sorts of notices.

“If these messages are important and consumers have not consented to receive them, ABA’s members should take the time to pick up the phone and speak with affected consumers directly, or send an e-mail or a letter,” reads the response to the ABA petition.

A second petition from the Consumer Bankers Association sought an exemption for so-called “wrong number” robocalls, in which a bank would not be considered in violation of the TCPA if they didn’t mean to robocall a cellphone.

The banks argued that things can get confusing when numbers get transferred between consumers without anyone telling the bank.

“The ‘wrong number’ exemption would gut the law and permit relentless, unauthorized robocalls to your cell phone,” explains Margot Saunders, counsel to the National Consumer Law Center. “Instead, companies can use technology and other measures to weed out numbers that have been transferred and to ensure they are calling the person who gave consent for robocalls.”

Today, the NCLC delivered a petition — along with more than 58,000 signatures from consumers — calling on the FCC to not grant these anti-consumer exemptions to the TCPA.

“Americans have made clear they do not want intrusive calls and we hope the FCC’s response is not to roll back the regulations intended to curb these abuses,” said Ellen Taverna, Legislative Director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

The petition comes on the heels of a letter from Senator Ed Markey and more than a dozen other senators asking the FCC to “reject calls to weaken or undermine” the TCPA.

Meanwhile, our colleagues at Consumers Union are still gathering signatures and support at EndRobocalls.org from consumers who believe telephone companies should provide free tools for people to block these annoying and unwanted calls.