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December 15, 2011

Cell Phone Robo-Call Bill Dies Following Outcry by Miller, Other State Attorneys General, and Consumers

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  The sponsor of a congressional effort to allow robo-callers to target cell phones has withdrawn the proposed legislation, a move that drew approval from Attorney General Tom Miller.

“Chalk up a victory for consumers and attorneys general across the country who made their voices heard in Washington, D.C.,” said Miller.  “It appears the proposal to allow robo-callers to dial up our cell phones is dead.”

The Omaha World-Herald reported that U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska), sponsor of the legislation that caught the eye of attorneys general and consumer advocates across the nation, sent a letter to the chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking for the legislation to be pulled.

Miller recently took part in that joint letter sent by the attorneys general asking Congress to oppose the "Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011" (MICA) that would have amended the Communications Act of 1934 and would have allowed for commercial robo-calling to cell phones.

“This victory drains what would have been a flood of nuisance telemarketing robocalls to Iowa’s cell phone owners,” Miller said.  “This now dead proposal made it clear that we need to strengthen the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) due to changes in technology to provide stronger consumer protections.”

MICA would have undermined current federal and state efforts that shield consumers from solicitation, marketing, debt collection and other unwanted calls and texts to their cell phones.  It would have also undermined existing state consumer protection laws by preempting state laws concerning junk faxes, unwanted text messages, automated calls, or any provision on telephone solicitations that is stronger or different from those in the TCPA.

Rather than gutting state regulation concerning harassing calls and faxes, Miller continues to urge Congress to strengthen it by making two small but significant changes to the TCPA to better protect consumers: (1) protect consumers’ privacy by clarifying that prior express consent to robocalls must be obtained in writing; and (2) eliminate any suggestion from the TCPA that state statutes regulating interstate telephone and fax harassment are preempted.

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