50 Consumer Groups Push Back on Robocall Exemption for Fed. Contractors

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

In early July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling that could lead to millions more robocalls to phones. The FCC held that federal contractors aren’t bound by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the law that protects consumers from robocalls.

But consumer groups are pushing back. Today, fifty groups, including Consumers Union, joined the National Consumer Law Center in formally asking the FCC to reconsider their decision.

The Broadnet decision could have far-reaching impacts on consumers, particularly the elderly, consumers on limited-minute cell phone plans, and anyone trying to protect themselves from an onslaught of robocalls. The decision means that, in regard to robocalls from federal contractors:

  • Consumers can’t opt out of these robocalls – even to your cell phone;
  • No limits can be placed on the frequency by which you receive these calls, or from receiving them at all hours of the day and night;
  • Prohibitions on Caller ID fraud or “call spoofing” don’t apply; and
  • Rules protecting emergency rooms and fire departments don’t apply.

Examples of these types of robocalls include surveys and tele-town hall messages. Margot Saunders, an attorney at the NCLC, said in a statement: “If the FCC does not reverse its decision, tens of millions of Americans will find their cell phones flooded with unwanted robocalls and text messages from federal contractors with no means of stopping these calls and no remedy for the harassment.”

Groups joining the petition to reconsider include Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, NAACP, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.

Lawmakers are also questioning the Broadnet decision. A group of Senators, led by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), earlier this month circulated a letter to the FCC and the head of the Office of Management and Budget that criticized the decision.

Our colleagues at the Consumerist covered the issue and gave it a full legal breakdown – you can check it out here.

We – along with the millions of consumers represented by these groups – are eagerly awaiting the FCC’s response. In the meantime, keep watching this space for more updates on the robocalls rules. Reportedly, final rules on debt collection robocalls on behalf of the federal government are expected shortly, and advocates and consumers like you have been working hard to ensure that the FCC issues the strongest possible rules.

Fed up with robocalls? You can help protect yourself from unwanted robocalls by joining our End Robocalls movement. Click here to demand that phone companies provide free, advanced robocall-blocking technology right to you!

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