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October 18, 2012

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Pushing FTC to Loosen Rules on Robocalling to Cell Phones

Automated outbound telephone calling, also known as “robocalling,” has gotten out of hand in the U.S. Complaints of illegal calling on both cell phones and to numbers on the federal do-not-call registry are soaring, and both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are under pressure to do something about it.

For its part, the FTC is holding a Robocall Summit today (October 18, 2012), expected to examine existing robocall technology, and issues related to illegal robocalls and consumer protection initiatives.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has weighed in on plans for the summit, calling on regulators and lawmakers to work together to improve existing telecommunications law and correct the ambiguities that exist in relation to this mobile communication, said the group.

“As the FTC prepares to discuss a number of important issues related to automated calls, it is imperative that any discussion properly distinguish between illegal telemarketing calls and informational calls that benefit consumers, and address modernizing and improving America’s existing telecommunications laws, particularly the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s senior vice president of Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs, said in a statement issued this week.

“With the increasing ubiquity of mobile phones and other devices, consumers want and often need to receive non-marketing information about existing products and services, including flight delays, fraud alerts, data breaches, food and drug recalls, and other important, time-sensitive information,” said Kovacs, who noted that the TCPA, written over 20 years ago before the explosion of mobile communication, has impeded business’ ability to share non-marketing updates with their customers and deprived consumers of a crucial opportunity to stay informed about their products or services.

Essentially, the Chamber of Commerce and consumer-facing companies would like permission to call cell phones without the subscriber’s say so. Under the TCPA as it exists today, prerecorded voice messages may be sent to mobile phones under two circumstances only: in emergencies, or when the company has the express consent of the mobile phone owner.

So chances are, Chamber of Commerce, if people want flight notifications and food recall notices, they’ll ask for them.  

Edited by Braden Becker

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