(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Attorney General Mike DeWine today joined 53 other attorneys general in a letter to Congress asking it 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, DeWine said. For example, debt collectors and other businesses could place automated "informational" calls to cell phones, which would have an impact on 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 getting and paying for repeated robo-calls on their cell phones to accounts that are not their own.
"This bill would be an assault on citizens' privacy," said Attorney General DeWine. "There could also be a monetary cost as these robo-calls eat up the recipients' phone minutes with calls they don't need or want."
This legislation would also 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, DeWine said.
Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to people 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 if a consumer asks not to be contacted.
The attorneys general are asking members of Congress to reject U.S. House Resolution 3035.
"This heavy-handed legislation will not add to the protection of consumers," said Attorney General DeWine.
In the letter, officials 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 https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr3035. Popvox will also forward consumers' comments to members of Congress.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti: 614-466-3840
Letter from Attorneys General (PDF)