Senators Markey, Thune Explore How Wireless Carriers May Reduce Unwanted Calls and Texts
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter today to the Honorable Meredith Attwell Baker, the president and CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association, on whether wireless carriers are in a unique position to reduce unwanted phone calls and text messages.
The letter follows a Commerce Committee hearing on May 18, 2016, on the effects of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) on consumers and businesses. TCPA prohibits calling and texting a consumer’s cell phone without their consent. Because consumers frequently change or relinquish their phone numbers, calls and texts are often made to people other than the users who initially gave their consent. Unwanted calls and texts frustrate consumers and create a liability for callers who want to comply with the law.
To work toward a solution on this issue, Sens. Thune and Markey ask the Wireless Association the following questions:
· Could wireless companies compile reassigned numbers in a database shortly after numbers are abandoned or relinquished?
· Could access be provided to callers so they can determine whether a number is still assigned to the party who gave consent to receive calls or texts at that number?
· Could carriers cover the costs of developing and maintaining such a database by charging callers a fee for access?
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Ms. Baker:
When Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991, one goal was clear: consumers should not be subject to calls on their cellular phones without prior consent. Now, 25 years after TCPA’s enactment, mobile devices have become ubiquitous in our society. Most Americans cannot imagine living without their mobile devices. With phones always in our palms, our pockets, or our purses, the need to ensure appropriate compliance with the TCPA has never been greater.
While the law has worked to successfully block countless unwanted calls, consumer complaints related to the TCPA remain among the most frequently received by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Consumers have made it clear they do not want their lives disrupted by calls and texts they have not consented to receive.
Wireless carriers are positioned to play an important role in further curtailing disruptive calls. Last year, the FCC gave the green light to service providers to offer robocall and robotext blocking technologies. We appreciate the work your member companies are undertaking to implement market-based solutions that consumers can use to stop unwanted robocalls and robotexts.
We also believe wireless carriers may have an opportunity to provide consumers and businesses more needed relief by establishing a reassigned numbers database, containing a list of cell phone numbers that have changed ownership. Periodically, consumers receive unwanted robocalls and robotexts because the previous holder of the phone number provided consent. Not only are robocalls and robotexts to reassigned numbers a nuisance to consumers, but they also create liabilities for calling parties.
Wireless companies are in a unique position to create and maintain such a database, which could protect wireless subscribers from unwanted robocalls and robotexts. We invite your comments about: how wireless companies may be able to compile reassigned numbers in a database shortly after numbers are abandoned or relinquished; how access could be provided to calling parties to determine whether a number is still assigned to the party who gave consent to receive calls or texts at that number; whether carriers can cover the costs of developing and maintaining such a database by charging calling parties a fee for access.
A reassigned numbers database could bolster the important consumer protections established by the TCPA by providing businesses information they need to avoid robocalling and robotexting wrong numbers. We appreciate your attention to this important matter and welcome the opportunity to work with you and other stakeholders to develop this reassigned numbers database concept.