Banks Argue for Right to Robocall Cell Phones

Consumers with cell phones (i.e., just about everyone) are protected from robocalling annoyances under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. However, banks are trying to change the law, arguing such calls will allow them to fight identity theft and other forms of fraud.
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Consumer advocates argue the benefits are being significantly overstated. More likely, they assert, is this is simply an opportunity for large corporations to erode key protections for consumers.

Beyond the fact that robo-calling is an annoyance, it can cost money when it’s done on your mobile phone. That’s likely a large reason why more than 223 million Americans have registered their phone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call” registry.

This has proven an effective way to slow the calls, but it hasn’t halted them entirely. And now, the American Bankers Association has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission for an exception to this law.

The ABA has asked that exemptions be granted when fraud is suspected. Essentially, the banks are asking permission to issue robo-calls to notify consumers their personal identifying information has been breached.

But our Miami consumer lawyers recognize there are several problems. The first is the U.S. lacks a federal breach notification law, which means there is no guarantee the notifications would be immediate. Secondly, banks have promised the calls won’t cost consumer’s money by eating up their cell phone minutes, but they haven’t indicated how that would be accomplished.

The bank already makes these calls to consumers, except it does so through a human operator.

Robo-calls are much cheaper than operator calls, which is why the ABA is pushing so hard for this exemption. But the greater concern is the potential for privacy violations of cell phone users.

This was a large part of the reason some 75 state and national groups – through the National Consumer Law Center – sent an open letter to the Federal Communications Commission – pleading to keep the current protections in place and deny the ABA request for exception.

While alerting consumers to possible identity theft isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it may have the unintended effect of making people more vulnerable to robo-scams. People will get used to receiving these calls, and those committing fraud will take advantage of this new comfort zone.

Some have suggested if the FCC grants the measure, it should only do so with strict instructions as to the type instruction/information those calls could provide.

Banks have a historically poor track record when it comes to freedoms and restrictions already in place. Consider the $1 million Bank of America had to pay to a Florida couple after flooding them with hundreds of loan collections calls over the years after the pair fell behind on mortgage payments. That kind of excess is clearly barred by law, but it didn’t stop the bank from stretching the rules. Now, the bank is appealing that ruling.

But that’s only part of the story. In 2013, it was made to pay $32 million total to settle charges of debt collection harassment on customer cell phones. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of nearly 8 million credit card and loan consumers.

If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Tuesday at 6 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs and Court Keeley,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

Additional Resources:
Banks are fighting for the right to robocall your cellphone, Jan. 23, 2015, By Adam Levin, Credit.com/Market Watch
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Report: Courts May Give Florida Homeowners a Break, Jan. 24, 2015, Miami Foreclosure Lawyer Blog