Consumer Alert

Alaska Joins 50 Attorneys General in Opposing Robo-Calls to Cell Phones

Alaska has joined 50 attorneys general in asking Congress to reject the "Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011" (House Resolution 3035).

The legislation, which amends the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, would allow robo-calling to cell phones, leaving some consumers to foot the bill for the calls. 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 minutes available.

Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to people who have given their explicit consent to receive them. If H.R. 3035 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 regardless of whether a consumer asks not to be contacted.

State attorneys general are concerned that H.R. 3035 would limit their ability to enforce stricter state laws against junk faxes, prerecorded calls or text messages. 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" which means "targeted" calls would be permitted.

The attorneys general also pointed out that an increase in calls to mobile phones could present a hazard to drivers who may become distracted. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that cell phone use was involved in 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. The full text of H.R. 3035 is available on the U.S. Government Printing Office's website.

Consumer Protection Unit
December 2011