Menendez, Democratic Senators Call on FCC to Establish Protections for Consumers from Unwanted, Harassing Robocalls

Menendez, Democratic Senators Call on FCC to Establish Protections for Consumers from Unwanted, Harassing Robocalls

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today joined a group of 14 Senators in calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish protections for consumers from unwanted and harassing robocalls and robotexts.

“In an era when the onslaught of unwanted and abusive robocalls is on the rise, we are concerned that the absence of core protections would result in even more invasive calls and texts,” write the Senators in their letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “It is the FCC’s obligation to use its existing authority to reestablish robust, enforceable protections to enhance the precious zone of privacy created by the law.”

The FCC recently issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the interpretation of the TCPA in light of a recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down portions of a 2015 FCC Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order limiting the definition of automatic telephone dialing systems (auto dialers), the technologies that can be used to rapidly call and text large groups of consumers. The ruling also vacated rules discouraging callers from making more than one unwanted call or text to a reassigned number. While the Court maintained the right to revoke consent, the Court’s ruling could be interpreted to suggest that callers could limit consumers’ method to revoke consent to receive robocalls and robotexts through provisions buried in contracts or service agreements.

In their letter, the Senators call on the FCC to:

  • Establish a comprehensive definition of the term auto dialer;
  • Uphold Congress’ intent to cover all callers using auto dialers, not exclusively those using artificial-voice or prerecorded messages;
  • Maintain aggressive protections restricting unwanted calls and texts to reassigned numbers, which are robocalls and robotexts made to wrong numbers because the previous holder of the phone number, not the current holder, provided consent; and
  • Reiterate that consumers always have the right to revoke consent, regardless of any contractual clauses that may be included in user agreements.

Last year, Sen. Menendez urged the FTC to partner with phone carriers and consumers in creating technology and legislation to better solve this ongoing problem.

Sen. Menendez co-sponsored the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act which repeals Section 301 of the Budget Act of 2015 that exempts callers collecting debt owed or guaranteed by the federal government from key provisions of the TCPA.

Signing the letter are Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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