Advocates say Commission must act to preserve and expand protections against unwanted, dangerous, or illegal text messages
WASHINGTON – The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), along with sixteen other national and state consumer and privacy groups representing a broad swath of individual telephone subscribers across the United States, urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stand firm against requests to force cell phone carriers to allow unwanted mass text messages. In reply comments filed with the FCC, the groups emphasize the urgent need to protect telephone subscribers from unwanted and illegal text messages.
In response to a Proposed Rulemaking in November, some commenters had urged the FCC to curtail cell phone carriers’ requirements that businesses sending texts to consumers have consent from the recipients. These commenters want to send annoying survey texts, repetitive political messages, and harassing debt collection demands, all without recipients’ consent. Such a move would result in even more unwanted texts flooding cell phones, with no ability to stop the onslaught.
“If the Commission were to bend to the wishes of these commenters and eliminate the carrier-imposed protections, text communications would unquestionably follow the sad path of voice calls,” said Margot Saunders, staff attorney at NCLC. “People would no longer trust the mechanism and would no longer open and communicate by text. Text messages that consumers want and need would be lost in a sea of unwanted messages.”
Unwanted text messages are not only annoying, scam texts cost consumers billions of dollars every year in direct losses, and the problem is growing worse. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers have reported greater losses from text scams in the first three quarters of 2022 than in all of 2020 and 2021 combined. RoboKiller projects a 179% increase in the dollars lost from text messages between 2021 and 2022, up to $28 billion this year alone.
“We applaud the Commission’s attention in this proceeding to the growing threat of scam texts,” said Chris Frascella, law fellow at EPIC. “But it is essential that the FCC develop additional tools to enable responsible carriers to block these texts.”
The groups also urged the Commission to issue interpretations of its regulations governing telephone solicitations to eliminate the widespread use of lead generators who trick consumers into providing consent. Telemarketers use consent obtained in this manner as the basis for hundreds of millions of unwanted telemarketing calls and texts every month.
In addition to NCLC and EPIC, the groups filing the comments include: Appleseed Foundation, Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. (FL), Legal Services of New Jersey, Mobilization for Justice (NY), Mountain State Justice (WV), National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumers League, Shriver Center on Poverty Law (IL), South Carolina Appleseed, Texas Appleseed, Tzedek DC, U.S. PIRG, and Virginia Poverty Law Center.
In June, NCLC and EPIC issued a report, Scam Robocalls: Telecom Providers Profit, which further examines the robocall epidemic and the profitability of transmitting illegal robocalls and text messages.
- Press release: NCLC, EPIC Urge FCC to Hold Voice Service Providers Accountable for Transmitting Illegal Robocalls, Jan. 11, 2022
- NCLC Digital Library: Getting Money Back For Scammed Consumers, Dec. 15, 2020
- Issue Brief: How Congress and the FCC Can Protect Americans from Invasive and Dangerous Robocalls and Robotexts, November 2020