A group of 54 U.S. state and territorial attorneys general Wednesday signed and delivered a letter to Congress expressing strong opposition to a bill that currently seeks to amend the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The bill — H.R. 3035, also called the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011 — will modernize the TCPA by exempting informational calls to wireless phones from auto-dialer restrictions; clarify the “prior express consent” requirement; and continue the prohibition against the use of assistive technologies to call wireless numbers for telemarketing purposes.
Currently under the TCPA, callers cannot use autodialers to ring mobile numbers for any purpose.
The letter of opposition, which was signed by the attorney general of every state except Nebraska and Virginia, claims that calls to mobile phones placed by autodialers would increase charges for most users.
The AGs note that not all cell phone plans include unlimited minutes. And in the case of prepaid plans, users actively pay for minutes. The letter states that 25 percent of Americans will be on prepaid plans by the end of 2011.
Because H.R. 3035 specifically focuses on allowing auto-dialed debt collection calls to mobile phones, the letter takes several specific swipes at debt collectors. “H.R. 3035 proposes to shift the cost of debt collection to the consumers and, in particular, to those who can least afford to pay it,” the letter claims. The AGs also claim that by allowing debt collection calls, the bill would shift the cost to innocent parties, since many non-debtors may be unintentionally contacted in the course of collecting an account.
In addition to cost-shifting, the letter claims that H.R. 3035 poses a public safety threat. “Few can resist answering the ‘shrill and imperious ring’ of the wireless telephone while driving…More calls will likely mean more distracted drivers and, inevitably, more accidents,” the letter says.
In addition to the states’ attorneys general, the AGs of American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands signed the letter.
H.R. 3035 was introduced in September and is currently before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill has broad support in the business community with ARM industry groups joining a coalition that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Bankers Association, Community Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, Air Transport Association, and many others.