There have been a number of lawsuits as of late in an effort to cut down on robocalling. One such lawsuit was recently settled for calls received from Caribbean Cruise Line, which was robocalling consumers asking for answers to political questions. In return, those falling for the scam were transferred to waiting customer service representatives claiming to offer free travel tips and other incentives. The calls were placed repeatedly to cell phones and those transferring ended up booking expensive accommodations by the end of the call.
In this particular case, although the company provided the law-requiring opt-out option, the calls continued to flood cell phones. Two Chicago residents decided to file a lawsuit, one claiming the company had called at least nine times despite attempting to cut down on the calls and unsuccessfully “unsubscribing”. The Carribbean Cruise case is just one of many examples of how companies have attempted to get around legislation designed to do away with unwanted telemarketing scams. Unless reported, they continue to try to find loopholes around the system.
However, a bill, named Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act, was put into action on Wednesday, which aims at cutting down on the number of these calls received from government contractors. The HANGUP Act repeals the budget deal of 2015 giving debt collectors the authority to robocall cell phones. This bill, introduced by Senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Mike Lee of Utah, would take away some of the loopholes robocallers have so far been able to get around.
Government contractors and federal debt collectors are a prime example of those who have so far been able to slip through the cracks. These agencies have been exempt from robocall regulation, much to the dismay of callers who believed they were protected after the roll out of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1991 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, which required an option for callers to select to opt-out of receiving such calls. Collectors, such as hospitals and mortgage companies, are able to call until outstanding bills are rectified as well. Sometimes, records do not immediately update, causing numerous follow ups even after the caller has submitted payment.
“When Congress passed the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act], the goal was clear: consumers should not be subject to unwanted robocalls and robotexts on their phones,” Markey said in statement. “But recent carve outs by Congress and FCC allow government contractors to robocall and robotext consumers without their affirmative express consent.”
It has been widely disputed that the government agencies should be held to the same standard as everyone else and the act should have cut this calls as well. “If independent and private businesses are not allowed to harass consumers with unwanted robocalls and texts, government and government contractors should be held to that same standard,” Senator Lee explained, referring to the new legislation as a much needed “check on Congressional entitlement and bureaucratic overreach.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon says, “The Hangup Act will protect Americans from an onslaught of aggressive phone calls and costly cellphone charges.” Let’s hope he’s right.