May 8, 2023 — Press Release

Advocates Warn Latest Proposal to Eliminate Illegal Calls and Text Messages Would Undermine Current Consumer Protections

WASHINGTON – Advocacy groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take more aggressive action to block unlawful text messages. In comprehensive comments filed with the FCC today regarding issues raised in a March Further Notice of Public Rulemaking, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA), Public Citizen, and seven other organizations expressed appreciation for the FCC’s proposals to address unwanted and dangerous text messages by requiring blocking texts from providers that have ignored notifications. The advocates, however, warned that the FCC’s proposal regarding consent for telemarketing calls is actually less protective of consumers than existing regulations. 

“We appreciate the FCC’s intention to address fraudulent consent from lead generators and others, however, if enforced, the current regulations will protect consumers from unwanted and illegal telemarketing calls pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act,” said Margot Saunders, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “The FCC should confirm the requirements of the current rules and federal law rather than writing new rules that are less protective.”

The comments also urge the FCC to issue guidance to articulate that the current regulations require that consumers consent to calls from only one seller at a time and that the federal E-Sign Act applies when the agreements are entered into online.

The FCC’s proposal, advocates warn, would allow the continued use of consent generated by lead generators, bots, and data brokers when in fact, the current regulations are more protective of consumers, as they limit the consumer’s agreement to calls from a single seller. The FCC’s proposal would impair a consumer’s ability to revoke consent for calls from each seller.

The problem of unlawful text messages has been escalating in recent years. Left unaddressed, unwanted text messages threaten to take over consumers’ cellphones in the way robocalls have, undermining yet another communication tool.

“The Commission needs to act forcefully to stop the unrelenting onslaught of illegal calls and text messages to American telephone lines,” said Chris Frascella, an attorney at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The numbers of text-borne scams and the direct losses to consumers resulting from them have been allowed to escalate dramatically in recent years.” 

The advocates praise the FCC for requiring downstream carriers to block texts from providers who ignore notices that they are transmitting suspected illegal traffic. This requirement creates incentives for text platforms to employ more robust measures to protect consumers from unwanted calls and texts. Additionally, the advocates encourage the FCC to consider adopting minimum standards for text registries, modeled on the Cellular Telephone Industries Association’s (CTIA) Best Practices, and eventually requiring carriers to block unregistered text campaigns that contain active hyperlinks. 

The groups also support the FCC’s proposal to codify the application of the FCC’s Do Not Call rules to text messages, even though existing rules and court decisions already make that conclusion clear. 

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