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    Edelman, Combs, Latturner, & Goodwin, LLC

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    Letter to Federal Communications Commission

    January 15, 2015
    Chairman Tom Wheeler
    Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
    Commissioner Michael O’Rielly
    Commissioner Ajit Pai
    Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
    Federal Communications Commission
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington DC 20554

    Re: CG Docket No. 02-278

    Dear Commissioners Wheeler, Clyburn, O’Rielly, Pai and Rosenworcel:

    The undersigned national, state and community groups write this letter to request that
    consumer protections for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) be maintained.
    Congress passed the TCPA more than two decades ago to protect consumers from receiving
    annoying robocalls to cell phones, calls which invade privacy and disrupt lives. The TCPA requires
    that the owner of a cell phone provide consent to a business to call – or text – when using an
    autodialer (except for emergency purposes). Currently, robocalls (or texts) to cell phones are illegal
    unless the cell phone owner has provided consent. This basic protection remains essential at a time
    when so many people, particularly low-income people, rely on their cell phones as their primary –
    and sole – means of communications. Many of these low-income cell phone users cannot afford to
    waste valuable minutes on their cell phones to field unwanted robocalls and texts for which they
    have not given prior consent.

    We understand that the FCC is currently considering issuing new rules that would provide
    exemptions and safe harbors for businesses that use autodialers to call or text cell phones. For
    example, the debt collection and banking industries want the FCC to allow “wrong party” robocalls
    to cell phones without liability. If these exemptions were permitted, then it would not be the person
    who had provided consent who would receive the intrusive calls or texts on their cell phone.
    Instead, it would be the innocent bystander who may have obtained a new telephone number and
    never gave consent for these calls, or who has no relationship whatsoever to either the caller or the
    party who provided consent.

    Maintaining strong protections against these calls creates incentives for the industry to
    develop methods to avoid harassing people who have not agreed to be called on their cell phones.
    Companies can use available technology to determine whether cell phone numbers were transferred
    to new users. Businesses could use these technologies before calling new cell phone numbers.
    Instead, they want the right to continue robocalling wrong numbers, without liability.
    The proposed changes that the FCC is considering will open the floodgates for “wrong
    number” calls to cell phones. This would not only be an improper interpretation of the TCPA, but it
    would gut essential privacy rights of cell phone users. Only with strong remedies imposed on2
    industry for calling or texting wrong numbers (even when they have been reassigned to new users),
    will the industry be incentivized to create and use technologies and methodologies to ensure they are
    calling the person who actually gave consent to receiving autodialer calls and texts on their cell
    phone.

    The fact remains, consumers hate unwanted calls and texts. Since 2003, over 223 million
    Americans have attempted to preserve their privacy by putting their phone numbers on the National
    Do Not Call Registry.

    1 Despite having this program in place, the FTC reported 3,748,655
    telemarketing complaints in 2013, of which at least 2,182,161 were reported as including a recorded
    message.2 The FCC similarly reports a dramatic increase in complaints with the number of robocall
    complaints doubling in the past two years to over 100,000 filed in 2012.3

    Given the fact that these
    alleged violations have increased exponentially since the TCPA was enacted, the FCC should not be
    attempting to weaken the current protections.

    We understand that there will be meetings this week between some groups and the staff of
    the Commissioners, and while most of us are unable to attend these meetings, we write to endorse
    the messages to be conveyed in these meetings:

    On behalf of consumers throughout the United States, please –
    • Do not reduce the consumer protections of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
    • Ensure that industry callers using autodialers to make calls or send texts to cell phones are
    fully liable when they call wrong numbers and reach consumers who have not provided
    consent for those calls.
    • Maintain the current system of liability for wrong number calls to create incentives for these
    industry callers to create reliable technologies to enable them to avoid wrong number calls.
    We hope that the FCC will resist the pressure from business and industry trade groups to
    weaken rules that require accuracy when sending robocalls to cell phones. Repeated unauthorized
    calls and texts to consumers’ cell phones invade privacy and cost money by using their precious
    minutes or limited text allowances.

    Thank you for your consideration of our views. If you have any questions, please contact
    Margot Saunders at the National Consumer Law Center, msaunders@nclc.org (202 452-6252,
    extension 104) or Ellen Taverna at that the National Association of Consumer Advocates,
    ellen@consumeradvocates.org (202 452-1989, extension 109).
    Sincerely,

     
    1 Federal Trade Commission, Nat’l Do Not Call Registry Data Book FY 2013, at 4 (Dec. 4, 2013) (available at
    http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/reports/national-do-not-call-registry-data-book-fiscal-year-
    2013/131204dncdatabook.pdf).
    2 Id. at 5. 3 Statement of Eric J. Bash, FCC Enforcement Bureau Associate Chief, at Hearing Before the Senate Committee
    on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance,
    Stopping Fraudulent Robocall Scams: Can More Be Done?3

     
    National Advocacy Organizations
    AFL-CIO
    Americans for Financial Reform (AFR)
    Center for Digital Democracy
    Common Cause
    Consumer Action
    Consumer Federation of America
    Economic Opportunity Studies
    Free Press
    NAACP
    National Association for State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA)
    National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
    National Association of Consumer Advocates
    National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low-income clients
    National Consumers League
    National Housing Law Project
    National Legal Aid & Defender Association
    National Senior Citizens Law Center
    New America’s Open Technology Institute
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
    Public Citizen
    Public Justice
    Public Knowledge
    The Institute for College Access & Success4
    U.S. PIRG
    Woodstock Institute
    State and Community Advocacy Organizations
    Consumer Federation of California
    Sacramento, CA
    Consumer Watchdog
    Santa Monica, CA
    Housing and Economic Rights Advocates
    Oakland, CA
    Sacramento Employment and Training Agency
    Sacramento, CA
    San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc.
    San Diego, CA
    TURN-The Utility Reform Network
    San Francisco, CA
    Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection
    Florida Legal Services
    Tallahassee, FL
    HOPE Outreach Center, Inc.
    Davie, FL
    Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc.
    Jacksonville, FL
    Legal Aid Service of Broward County, Inc.
    Plantation, FL
    Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association, Inc.
    Orlando, FL
    Chinese American Service League
    Chicago, IL
    Chinese Mutual Aid Association
    Chicago, IL5
    LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago)
    Chicago, IL
    Rural Broadband Policy Group
    Whitesburg, KY
    Better Business Bureau of Northeast Louisiana,
    Monroe, LA
    Massachusetts Consumer Coalition
    Boston, MA
    Consumer Assistance Council, Inc.
    Hyannis, MA
    Disability Law Center,
    Boston, MA
    Medical-Legal Partnership
    Boston, MA
    Metrowest Legal Services
    Framingham, MA
    Maryland CASH
    Baltimore, MD
    Maryland Office of People’s Counsel
    Baltimore, MD
    Public Justice Center
    Baltimore, MD
    Mid Minnesota Legal Assistance
    Minneapolis, MN
    Open Access Connections
    St. Paul, MN
    Graceful Seniors LLC
    Toms River, NJ
    Legal Services of New Jersey
    Edison, NJ
    Long Term Care Community Coalition
    New York, NY6
    MFY Legal Services, Inc.
    New York, NY
    Financial Guidance Center
    Las Vegas, NV
    Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Inc.
    Las Vegas, NV
    Legal Services of Southern Piedmont
    Charlotte, NC
    North Carolina Justice Center
    Raleigh, NC
    Pisgah Legal Services
    Ashville, NC
    Reinvestment Partners
    Durham, NC
    Citizens Coalition
    Cleveland, OH
    Consumer Protection Association
    Cleveland, OH
    Friendship Foundation
    Cleveland, OH
    Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy
    Findlay, OH
    Pro Seniors, Inc.
    Cincinnati, OH
    Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Clarifi
    Philadelphia, PA
    South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center
    Columbia, SC
    Fleet & Family Support Center
    Millington, TN7
    Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability
    Nashville, TN
    Texas Legal Services Center
    Austin, TX
    Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veteran Education
    Virginia Beach,VA
    Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
    Richmond, VA
    Virginia Poverty Law Center
    Richmond, VA
    Alliance for a Just Society
    Seattle, WA
    Northwest Consumer Law Center
    Seattle, WA
    Fairmont-Morgantown Housing Authority (FMHA)
    Fairmont, WV
    Mountain State Justice
    Charleston, WV