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Attorney general urges FCC to update regulations against automated calls and texts

Spam calls
Photo from Optimum

Attorney General Lynn Fitch is joining a coalition of 28 state attorneys general in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect Americans from unwanted automated calls and text messages.

The attorneys general are calling on the FCC to clarify the federal rules requiring telemarketers to obtain consent between an individual consumer and one specific seller or business entity before making telemarketing robocalls and texts.

“All too often, companies hide behind vague, fine print to justify selling consumers’ information to telemarketers,” Fitch said. “These calls and texts are more than a nuisance, they are often the gateway to scams. I am asking the FCC to protect consumers by updating its rules and explicitly include text messages in the National Do Not Call Registry protections.”

The comment letter was filed on June 6 in response to an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking. In the notice, the FCC sought comment on a proposed amendment to its rule concerning prior express written consent under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as well as proposals to strengthen protections against illegal text messages. The FCC is proposing to amend its rule concerning consent to close a “lead generator loophole.”

Lead generators are entities that collect personal information from consumers and sell it to third parties, who then use that information to solicit consumers to purchase goods or services. A common lead generation practice is to offer to give the consumer a quote for a good or service online, and in order to receive the quote, the consumer has to agree to receive calls and/or texts from the lead generator marketing partners, which often include thousands of different businesses offering numerous different goods or services.

“The evidence already before the Commission supports a need to enact effective rules to address the continuing threat scam robo texts pose to consumers,” the AGs wrote. “As the Commission recognized, the number of spam text messages that wireless providers blocked grew ten times, from an estimated 1.4 billion in 2015 to 14 billion in 2020. In addition, consumers have reported $231 million in losses from text message scams in the first three quarters of 2022, which is greater than the losses reported in 2020 and 2021 combined.”

The FCC’s proposed amendment adds language to the existing rule to allow a consumer to consent to robocalls and texts from multiple entities, provided the entities are “logically and topically associated” and are all listed on the webpage where the consumer provides consent. However, the AGs are concerned that the FCC’s proposed action could create more ambiguity and that, rather, clarification of existing single seller-to-individual consumer language would be more effective.

Those experiencing unwanted calls or texts can add their phone number to the FCC’s “Do Not Call” registry by clicking here.

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