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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
David Paulson, 410-576-6357
dpaulson@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Urges Congress to Reject Robo-Call Bill
Pending legislation will erode Marylanders' cell phone privacy, increase costs

BALTIMORE, MD ( Dec. 7, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today asked Congress to protect consumers' privacy and pocketbooks by opposing pending legislation that would leave cellular phones and other mobile communications devices vulnerable to robo-calls or, automated “informational” calls, from debt collectors and other businesses. Attorney General Gansler, along with 53 other Attorneys General, is seeking the defeat of the “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011” [H.R. 3035] that would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and allow robo-calling to all cell phones, leaving consumers to foot the bill.

“This bill would open the floodgates, making cellular devices vulnerable to endless automated robo-calls that people don't want and can't afford,” said Attorney General Gansler. “This federal measure constitutes an assault on Americans' telephone privacy. It dilutes the ability of my office to protect consumers against abuse and opens a Pandora's Box by giving businesses carte blanche to make calls to personal cell phones regardless of consumers' wishes.”

Under H.R. 3035, debt collectors and other businesses could place automated “informational” calls to cell phones at a cost to many cell phone consumers who pay by the minute or have a limited number of minutes available. Additionally, since businesses frequently have the wrong contact information, consumers could be getting and paying for repeated robo-calls on their cell phones that are intended for someone else.

The attorneys general are asking members of Congress to reject U.S. House Resolution 3035. The bill would preempt state efforts to protect its citizens.  As chief protectors of consumer rights, many state attorneys general would not be able to enforce their [more] stricter state laws against junk faxes, prerecorded calls or text messages.

This 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.

Currently, federal law allows robo-calls to be placed to people who have given their explicit consent to receive them or in case of an emergency. If this federal legislation 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.

In the letter, Attorney General Gansler and his fellow Attorneys General 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 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.

Citizens can also voice their opinion on the proposal by contacting their representative or by voting on Popvox's nonpartisan website https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/112/hr3035. Popvox will forward consumers' comments to members of Congress.

   

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