Congress Considers Bill Said to Allow Telemarketers Increased Access to Your Cell Phone

cellphone32 150x150 Congress Considers Bill Said to Allow Telemarketers Increased Access to Your Cell PhoneQ: What’s the difference between your cell phone and your landline?

A: What’s a landline? Ha ha. But seriously:

  • folks tend to answer their cell phones right away
  • most people don’t screen calls on their cell phones
  • cell phones are used for more personal calls
  • people generally don’t give out their mobile numbers as readily
  • 83 percent of Americans own a cell phone; some don’t have a landline

Now, Congress is debating a bill called the Mobile Information Call Act which, as written, would give businesses much greater leeway in trying to contact you.

As quoted in the New York Daily News, Sen. Chuck Schumer claims that if passed, this law would allow all sorts of nuisance calls to eat into your expensive minutes. “The floodgates would be open to telemarketers who could call you on your cell phone during breakfast, lunch, dinner, no matter if you’re at home, at school, at the office,” says Schumer, who vowed to fight the legislation.

Current laws, the paper says, bar telemarketing calls to cell phones unless the customer has given approval. The proposed change would allow prerecorded “informational” calls to be made to your cell without consent.

In addition, claims the action network CREDO, “although telemarketers have to have ‘express consent’ before they can call your cell phone, this bill would mean that if you ever give your phone number when buying anything, you will have given businesses the ability to call you endlessly — and use up minutes you paid for.”

In defense of the bill, Sen. Ed Towns said in a written statement recently that “the telecommunications landscape has changed dramatically in the last twenty years…The rules and laws governing how businesses and consumers interact have not kept up with these developments.” The intent of the bill, he says, is to “maintain bans on telemarketing and to retain the popular “Do-Not-Call” regulations.”

Townsend argues that the law as written prevents important information like fraud alerts and product recalls from getting to consumers in a timely fashion.

The bill is also supported by groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which points out that, “Businesses increasingly rely on advanced communications technologies to convey timely and important information to consumers. These calls notify consumers about threats such as data breaches and fraud alerts, provide timely notice of flight and service appointment cancellations and drug recalls, and protect consumers against the adverse consequences of failure to make timely payments on an account.

“Unfortunately, the TCPA restricts informational calls that utilize assistive technologies to mobile devices even though the law permits such calls to be made to wireline phones. As a result, the approximately 40% of American consumers who identify their mobile device as their primary or exclusive means of communication do not receive many of these calls.

“This restriction imposes unwarranted costs and inconveniences on consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole. When enacted in 1991, Congress intended this restriction to protect consumers against the then-daunting per-minute costs and privacy concerns associated with unsolicited incoming calls from telemarketers. But this restriction applies equally to informational calls. In addition, most wireless consumers are now covered by flat-rate plans, and even for those who are not, technological advances and increased competition have greatly reduced per-minute charges.”

To make your voice heard in the debate, or to learn more about the pros and cons of the bill, contact the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee HERE.

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.