Rules against robocalls shouldn't be loosened

Thirty billion robocalls were made to American consumers ...

Posted: Nov 11, 2018 12:48 AM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 12:48 AM

Thirty billion robocalls were made to American consumers in 2017, according to YouMail, a robocall-blocking service. And while robocalls, made with an automated dialer or using a prerecorded or artificial voice, torment Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, even on this issue, Washington leadership has found a way to divide along party lines.

The division is not over whether robocalls generally are a nuisance that should be addressed, but over which robocalls should be stopped. The robocalling industry is pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deregulate all automated robocalls made with a human agent by interpreting the definition for "automated telephone dialing systems" (autodialers) in a way that would not cover any automated systems being used by the callers.

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Consumer electronics

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Businesses using robocalls for debt collection and telemarketing are trying to capitalize on a recent DC Circuit Court decision that tasked the FCC with revisiting some of the rules that govern robocalls under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA requires that callers have consent when they use autodialers to call cell phones, and that consumers can revoke that consent to stop the robocalls.

However, partisan lines have been drawn over whether some well-known companies, including many creditors and debt collectors, should be exempted from the TCPA's restrictions altogether. This would mean that consumers would no longer have the ability to stop calls from callers collecting debts -- regardless of how many times a day or a week the calls are made or whether they are even reaching the correct party. While some Democratic senators have opposed the loosening of regulations that would allow consumers to be inundated by these unwanted calls, Republicans have not taken action to stand up for consumers' rights.

Congress passed the TCPA in 1991 to address a surge in unwanted robocalls and faxes. The FCC has interpreted the TCPA to bar unwanted text messages as well as autodialed calls to cell phones without the recipient's consent.

But as the availability of software and equipment to make autodialed calls to cell phones rapidly expands, lobbyists and lawyers for the robocallers are in Washington, working to persuade the FCC to narrow the autodialer definition so that virtually none of the technologies currently used to make unwanted robocalls or send texts would be covered by these protections.

Giving in to the robocallers' demands would inevitably increase the number of robocalls made daily, likely by a factor of thousands. There would simply be no restrictions whatsoever on debt collection calls, survey calls, political calls or non-profits calling to solicit money, so long as those calls are made using live agents or technology that does not fit into the proposed, narrow autodialer definition. While the Do Not Call Registry would still apply, that rule protects us from only telemarketing calls, which are less than half of all robocalls.

The robocalling industry also hopes to persuade the FCC to strip consumers of their right to revoke consent. Frequently, consumers unknowingly consent to receive robocalls from companies they do business with in the fine print of loan documents, service contracts and consumer product terms and conditions.

Once consumers recognize they've given a business permission to robocall them, usually after receiving a number of unsolicited robocalls, they now have the legal right to inform the business that its calls are unwanted and demand that the calls stop. As things stand, the robocallers have to comply, but with the stroke of a pen, the FCC may allow them to ignore consumers' wishes.

Lobbyists for the businesses making robocalls don't appear confident in their own assertion that their calls are wanted communications between a business and its customers. If they were, they would support consumers' right to revoke consent -- assuming that their customers would not exercise that right.

More than a dozen Democratic senators have urged the FCC to maintain strong rules to limit unwanted robocalls and allow consumers to determine which calls are wanted. But in a true display of Washington dysfunction, that letter is void of any Republican signatures. Worse, some Republican senators wrote to the FCC urging it to side with the robocallers at the expense of consumers.

If Americans are to have confidence in the democratic process, lawmakers must find common ground on issues that directly impact their constituents. An issue as wide-reaching and universally despised as robocalls provides just the opportunity. Congress and the FCC should honor the will of their constituents and reject efforts by big businesses and robocalling industry lobbyists to flood our cell phones with even more unwanted robocalls.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 350070

Reported Deaths: 7590
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds24512449
DeSoto23513283
Harrison21172335
Rankin15798293
Jackson15735254
Madison11171227
Lee10903180
Jones9223169
Forrest9027163
Lauderdale8087244
Lamar724890
Lowndes7199152
Lafayette6631125
Washington5661140
Pearl River5357154
Oktibbeha503198
Bolivar5004134
Warren4817128
Panola4812112
Marshall4739106
Pontotoc452473
Hancock440388
Neshoba4401181
Union438979
Monroe4369138
Lincoln4228116
Pike3739114
Leflore3676125
Alcorn355374
Tate354988
Sunflower351094
Adams347490
Scott346677
Yazoo342977
Copiah330869
Simpson327191
Itawamba317281
Coahoma315685
Tippah312869
Prentiss302563
Covington302384
Marion289882
Leake288676
Wayne280945
George277351
Grenada272188
Newton266864
Tishomingo240770
Winston238084
Stone235338
Jasper234748
Attala228674
Chickasaw221460
Holmes202574
Clay201954
Clarke189580
Tallahatchie185642
Calhoun183232
Smith183036
Yalobusha173641
Walthall150449
Lawrence145426
Greene141935
Amite139144
Noxubee137235
Perry136138
Montgomery133944
Carroll127031
Webster124332
Jefferson Davis119834
Tunica116127
Benton107825
Claiborne105931
Kemper104429
Humphreys102333
Franklin88424
Quitman86319
Choctaw83119
Wilkinson79332
Jefferson72228
Sharkey51918
Issaquena1746
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 592417

Reported Deaths: 11542
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson861091591
Mobile49771865
Madison37714533
Shelby27501259
Tuscaloosa27344465
Montgomery26343628
Baldwin25860329
Lee17336181
Calhoun15498334
Morgan15225291
Etowah15060370
Marshall13198236
Houston12191293
Elmore10977219
St. Clair10852252
Limestone10816158
Cullman10610206
Lauderdale10305254
DeKalb9594192
Talladega9005188
Walker7840288
Autauga7615114
Jackson7431117
Blount7417139
Colbert6752142
Coffee6443132
Dale5723117
Russell482243
Chilton4810117
Covington4804125
Franklin462781
Tallapoosa4571156
Escambia451083
Chambers3987125
Dallas3751163
Clarke372263
Marion3470107
Pike334079
Lawrence3277100
Winston300773
Bibb292865
Geneva288383
Marengo262967
Barbour253761
Pickens247762
Butler242472
Hale236778
Fayette228165
Henry216545
Monroe204541
Randolph202844
Cherokee200748
Washington186839
Macon171552
Crenshaw170658
Clay167159
Cleburne161845
Lamar151938
Lowndes146255
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh122132
Coosa119529
Perry111228
Sumter110633
Greene99337
Choctaw64425
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