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December 07, 2011
McKenna joins fight against robo-calls to cell phones

State AGs say proposed federal law goes too far

OLYMPIA – Attorney General McKenna today joined 53 other attorneys general in asking Congress to oppose legislation targeting consumers’ telephone privacy. 

The “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011” [H.R. 3035] would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to allow for robo-calling to cell phones, forcing consumers to pay associated per-minute charges. For example, debt collectors and other businesses could place automated “informational” calls to cell phones, impacting those who pay by the minute or have a limited number of available minutes.

In addition, since businesses frequently have out-of-date contact information, consumers will likely receive and pay for repeated robo-calls to their cell phones regarding accounts that are not their own.

“This legislation will make it tougher for state attorneys general to enforce stricter state laws against robo-calls to mobile phones,” McKenna said. “A majority of consumers do not have pricier plans with unlimited minutes and may not wish to spend their minutes on unwanted, auto-dialed calls.”

Washington state law prohibits robo-calls for commercial purposes

State AGs say the 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,” meaning more targeted calls would be permitted.

Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to people who have given their explicit consent to receive them or in the case of emergency. If the federal bill 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 – even if a consumer asks not to be contacted.

In the letter, the AGs also pointed out that an increase in calls to mobile phones could present a hazard to drivers. 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. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined other consumer advocates in November to provide testimony in opposition to the special interest driven legislation during a hearing before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in Washington, D.C.

Citizens may also voice their opinion on the proposal by contacting their representative or by voting on Popvox’s nonpartisan website Popvox will also forward consumers’ comments to members of Congress.

Those that signed the letter are from: Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725

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