If You Hate Robocalls, You'll Really Hate This Idea

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Despite laws that prohibit them, new technology and other protections, consumers still complain on a daily basis about robocalls and the inability to halt them. And it just might get worse. Some businesses want to aim for your cellphones.

Consumers have long had the support of government to try to control these calls, chiefly through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which actually allows consumers to file lawsuits and collect penalties from companies that pepper them with robocalls or text messages they didn't agree to receive.

But now the Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing a key rule and allowing businesses to call or text your cellphones without authorization if they say they called a wrong number. The banking industry and collections industry are pushing for the change.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-We hope that the FCC will resist the pressure from business and industry trade groups to weaken rules that prevent robocalls to cell phones without consent.%A broad coalition of 80 consumer groups, including the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center, this week appealed to the FCC to ask the agency to leave the protections intact.

"We hope that the FCC will resist the pressure from business and industry trade groups to weaken rules that prevent robocalls to cell phones without consent," said Margot Saunders, counsel to the National Consumer Law Center. "Currently, robocalls (or texts) to cell phones are illegal unless the cell phone owner has provided consent. Repeated unauthorized calls and texts to consumers' cell phones invade privacy and cost money by using their precious minutes or limited text allowances."

The request to exempt wrong number calls and texts stems from lawsuits that have been filed by consumers who were contacted repeatedly by companies seeking someone who previously had the phone number being called. Many consumers have complained that even after they reported that they weren't who the companies were looking for the calls and texts continued.

"The proposed changes that the FCC is considering will open the floodgates for 'wrong number' calls to cell phones," the consumer groups said in their letter to the FCC. "This would not only be an improper interpretation of the TCPA, but it would gut essential privacy rights of cell phone users."

The groups left the FCC with this message:

On behalf of consumers throughout the United States, please --
• Do not reduce the consumer protections of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
• Ensure that industry callers using autodialers to make calls or send texts to cell phones are fully liable when they call wrong numbers and reach consumers who have not provided consent for those calls.
• Maintain the current system of liability for wrong number calls to create incentives for these industry callers to create reliable technologies to enable them to avoid wrong number calls.

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