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Banks try to convince Congress that they need to robocall our cellphones

News by Dan Seifert on Thursday September 29, 2011.

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A new bill has been introduced to Congress that would make it legal for companies to use autodialers, aka robocall, when calling a customer's cellphone. It has been illegal for telemarketers to call people on their cellphones with automatic dialing systems since 1991. The new bill looks to reverse that, in the name of "informational purposes."

The H.R. 3035 bill, also known as the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011, if approved into law, would allow businesses to use automatic dialing systems and robot callers when calling people on their cellphones. Businesses have been able to do this to landlines and home phones for years, but until now, cellphones have been a no-no. The organizations in support of the bill are overwhelmingly from the banking industry, and they claim that it is necessary to make revisions to the law so that they can provide information to their customers in a timely fashion, all the while protecting "wireless consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls."

In their letter to Congress urging the government's approval of the bill, the banking groups point out that 40 percent of Americans use cellphones as their primary or only means of telephone communication, and that most cellphone users are covered by flat-rate voice plans. Those that don't have flat-rate plans have much lower per minute costs than customers did back in 1991. The banks point out that they want to use automated dialing systems for informational purposes only, and not for telemarketing.

It is noble that the banks want to inform customers of pertinent information in the most convenient means available, but it sounds like a slippery slope into telemarketing. It doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to think of a situation where this new policy could be abused. For instance, a bank could call to "inform" a customer of new checking options or mortgage plans and that they should refinance now.

The bill was introduced by Representative Lee Terry from Nebraska and would need to be approved by Congress and the President before becoming law. [via Consumerist]

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Dan Seifert
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.

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