Nearly everyone has been bothered by them. The robocalls offering a lower interest rate on your school loans (even if you don’t have any), cleaner ductwork in your house and all sorts of signup options for health insurance.
But the companies that program their sales pitches to interrupt repeatedly countless lives may face new restrictions.
Both the courts and Congress are reviewing options for cracking down.
According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a House subcommittee unanimously voted to advance a wide-ranging bill that would provide restrictions.
The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 3375, “would enroll customers in free call-blocking programs and take more aggressive rulemaking steps to ensure people only get calls they ask to receive,” the organization said.
It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require “consent” for “calls made and text messages sent using automatic telephone dialing systems and calls made using an artificial or prerecorded voice.”
Consumers would be given permission to withdraw consent for such calls, and “circumvention or evasion of such action is prevented.”
Further, the Federal Trade Commission is working with state regulators on “Operation Call it Quits” in another effort “to crack down on illegal robocalls.”
That includes 94 actions targeting robocallers responsible for billions of calls.
In court, EPIC has supported a case brought against Charter Communications arguing that marketing calls to cell phones are so intrusiveness they should not be allowed.
“This case concerns the constitutionality of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (‘TCPA’), which prohibits using an ‘automated telephone dialing system’ or prerecorded voice to call an individual’s cell phone without prior authorization,” EPIC said.
While courts have found autodialer restrictions are constitutional, several groups have sued again, claiming there are exceptions and that their operations fall within them.
That issue is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The plaintiff there, Steven Gallion, alleges that Charter Communications spammed him and thousands of others with daily calls promoting its telecommunications services using automatic telephone dialing systems and a prerecorded voice.
Gallion argues he and thousands of others were never customers of Charter and never provided any personal information to Charter, including their cellular telephone numbers, for any purpose.
EPIC said that on appeal, the challengers “have argued that the lower court was wrong to uphold the TCPA cell phone ban as constitutional.”
“They have argued that the cell phone ban (1) does not further a compelling governmental interest, (2) is not narrowly tailored, and that (3) there are less restrictive alternatives that would achieve the government’s purpose. In particular, the challengers argued that time-of-day limitations, mandatory disclosure of the caller’s identity, or do-not-call lists would be alternatives to the autodialer and prerecorded voice ban.”