In advance of a hearing today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection on the topic of the Federal Trade Commission, Mark Neeb, the chief executive of ACA International, has submitted a letter to the subcommittee’s chairman and ranking member, encouraging Congress to work with the FTC to make sure that legitimate businesses are “not harmed” by technologies that seek to block robocalls from being made to consumers.
Joseph Simons, the chairman of the FTC, is scheduled to testify at today’s hearing, along with the FTC’s four other commissioners — Maureen Ohlhausen, Rohit Chopra, Rebecca Slaughter, and Noah Phillips. The objective of the hearing is to focus on consumer data protection and data privacy issues, efforts to combat robocalls and scams, as well as improve transparency and efficiency at the FTC, among other priorities.
In his letter, Neeb calls out the technologies being offered by telephone carriers and third parties that block “robocalls,” but are also being used to keep legitimate calls, such as those from debt collectors, from reaching their intended recipients.
“In recent months, ACA members have continued to report that legitimate calls that they are making are either blocked or mislabeled by third parties providers,” Neeb wrote. “Not only does this impede legitimate business communications but it also prompts misguided complaints when callers believe they are dealing with a bad actor. This mislabeling can also make a consumer reticent to communicate with the caller, even though it is in their best interest to learn about and resolve an outstanding account, if it appears they are speaking with a scammer.”
Neeb also raised concerns about a pair of bills in Congress that seek to update the definition of an automated telephone dialing system. The intention of the proposed legislation is to further wall off individuals from robocalls, but that too, may have some unintended consequences, Neeb wrote.
“Unfortunately, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act is a step backwards. It is not helpful in clarifying a severely outdated statute enacted in 1991 that has not kept up with modern technology and consumers’ preferences. Instead, it will make it harder for legitimate businesses to contact consumers, and for those consumers to learn about information they need to preserve their ability to access credit, health services, and a large variety of other exigent information.”