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tv   Hearing Focuses on Robocalls and the Do Not Call List  CSPAN  May 21, 2016 2:00am-3:43am EDT

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now a hearing on the telephone consumer protection act of 1991. specifically members looked at the rules for solicitation and information dissemination and debt collection and other forms of telemarketing. the senate commerce committee hosted the event. from earlier this week. it runs an hour and 40 minutes.
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this hearing will get underway. my apologies for being tardy. i'm running around a lot today but thank you all for your patience and welcome to today's hearing on the telephone consumer protection act. when passing tcpa 25 years ago congress sought a balanced approach that protects the privacy of individuals and permitted legitimate telemarketing practices. a as a result a number of telemarketing pract is have been significantly reduced or eliminates. for example companies have to maintain do-not-call list and could not make solicitation calls before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. but tcpa is showing its age and there are opportunities to build on the consumer benefits and ensuring consumers fully benefit from modern communications. consumers should be able to take
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advantage of technology to help them fall victim to actors though those who ignore do not call requirements. i doubt there is a person in this room whos that not received a recorded mobile voice call telling them they've won a cruise. and we continue to take practice against the tools to bring bad actors to justice including those operating from overseas. we recently took a step in this direction by unanimously approving ranking member nelson and senator fisher's anti-spoofing legislation as part of the act but our discussion is not only about policing abusive practices and stopping bad actors. we must also acknowledge that most businesses are trying to do the right thing and play by the rules. and we need to understand whether tcpa is inadvertently hurting the good actors and consumers. when congress passed tcpa cell phones were uncommon and mobile telephone service was extremely expensive. it made sense to have
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particularly strict rules about contacting people on mobile phones. today, however, mobile phones are not only ubiquitous, they are smart devices that do much more than send and receive phone calls. consumer behavior is different than back in 1991. today's consumer expectations about communications connectivity and the benefits of doctors schools and favorite charities and even their lernds would be unrecognizable to congress 25 years ago. more than 90% of americans now have a mobile phone. and nearly half of all households in the united states are mobile only. these are higher for young adults. simply put, if you can't reach these people on their mobile phones, you're going to have a hard time reaching them at all. the balance forged decades ago may not be legitimate business practices. the federal communications commission was tasked by ensuring a balanced act of tcpa. but the commission has struggled
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to comply tcpa to a changing communication market place and the tcpa is creating more imbalances and more uncertainty. the commission rules have creates more questions rather than answers. for example, what is an auto dialer. the commission will not answer that clearly and instead only says it is something other than a rotary dial telephone. the fcc declared last year it would not address the exact contures of the auto dialer definition or seek to determine each type of equipment that falls within that definition. hospitals and charities utilities and banks and restaurants should not have to engage engineers to know if they could call customers without being sued. another example is what to do if a customer's number has been reassigned. while the fcc claims to have addressed this issue, companies say there is still no way to know with certainty. what is certain, however, if you call a line more than once,
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could you be liable for $500 per call, even if the party never answers. tcpa litigation is becoming a booming business. tcpa cases are the second most failed type of case in court with 3710 filed last year alone. >> that represents a 45% increase over 2014. and the companies affected by an unbalanced tcpa may surprise you. for example, twitter stated the following in a filing at the fcc and i quote, as a result of this hyper letith us environment innovative companies must choose between denying consumers information they requested or targeting by tcpa plaintiff attorneys filing shakedown suits. no company should be put to such a choice. end quote. the cost of getting the balance wrong isn't just burdensome litigation. it is also the cost to consumers and to the economy of the important consumer contact that is not being made for fear of running afoul of an ill-defined
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rule. text messages to let parents know about weather-related cancellations, calls to struggling low-income households know how to keep the heat from getting cut off, calls to alert borrowers they are at risk of defaulting on debts an ruin debt rating and follow up calls to patients to make sure they understand the post-discharge treatment plans. another specific matter that will be discussed today is the obama administration's car avowal to allow robo-calls to mobile phones to collect debts owed to the federal government. the administration used the must-pass bipartisan budget act as an achievement of the robo call carveout. the committee reached out to the office of management and budget and the department of treasury and department of education to testify about why they prioritized this robo call carve out for years. the obama administration has not represented before us today but we continue to seek the input as the robo call carve out is
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implemented by the fcc and the over site of tcpa. finding the right balance is essential to protecting the privacy of consumers while making sure they have reasonable access to the information they want and need and making sure good faith business actors could reasonably assess the cost of doing business. we have a variety of perspectives represented on the panel before us today. i look forward to hearing your testimony and appreciate very much your participation with us, thank you. i'll recognize the senator from florida, ranking member senator nelson. >> mr. chairman, if you go anywhere in this country, and you ask a consumer do you want to receive robo calls, or you ask them would you like to receive robo calls on your cell phone, you may get the cell phone thrown at you. and there are a few things that unite our country men and women
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like the distaste for robo calls. that are interrupting them at dinner-time, in the middle of driving, it goes on and on. it's a sentiment nearly all of us share. that's why for the last 25 years the laws have sided with consumers. the number of consumer complaints about robo calls regardless of the laws continue to increase. the fcc receives tens of thousands of robo call complaints every month. and we all have stories to tell. one of our friends signed up for a line service one morning. and by the afternoon, before he
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had given his new number to his family and friends, his phone was being flooded by robo calls. so he gave up the land line. in fact, how many of us know friends at home that have given up the landline and just used the cell phone for that exact same reason. they don't want the robo calls. most of us, our cell phone is our life line. if we allow those annoying robo calls to begin freely bombarding folks, where do consumers go to escape the harassment. so what would happen on mobile phones is that they would start to ignore the calls from unknown numbers so they don't have to hear another recording.
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only to miss an important call. or what about the senior citizens and how about low- income americans, many of those consumers have calling plans that are restricted in the number of minutes that they can use every month. so opening the flood gates to robo calls to those individuals would have an immediate adverse effect. or what about driving down the road. just like i was this morning, dodging in and out of traffic. coming across the 395 bridge. people cutting in front of me and me having to slam on the brakes. and suddenly you get a call and you want to answer it, but it's not something important. it's a robo call.
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and, therefore, the distracted driving. where would all of that end? so, you know, the frustration is there. also because of fraudulent callers. scammers are always going to be a problem. we have tried to address that directly on in a bipartisan way with the chairman. thanks to his leadership. senator fisher and i have teamed up on our bill to combat spoofing and that's why i'd also like us to see a revamped improved do-not-call call. now, obviously, there are legitimate businesses and other reasons to call consumers on their wireless phones. but there's already an answer to that.
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just get the consumer's consent. that's been the law since 1991. in this bubble of washington, policymakers are often in danger of losing sight to what is actually out there in america. and there's no doubt, ask that question of any american consumer. i want to thank you, mr. chairman, for calling this hearing to shed light on the distaste of american consumers about these annoying calls. >> thank you, senator nelson. all right. we'll get underway. we have with us the honorable greg zoeller. and ms. becca wahlquist. margot saunders. with the national consumer law
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center. mr. rich lovich, testifying on administration health care management and miss monica dasai, a partner of squire patent bogs law firm. we'll start with mr. zoeller, please proceed and welcome to the committee. >> thank you mr. chairman and members of the committee, i appreciate the opportunity to come and be heard. i'll pick up with senator nelson left off. we do in the state of indiana receive remarkable number of complaints each year. i think last year it was somewhere around 14,000 calls, the largest number of complaints in our consumer protection area. over half of those complaints were about robo calls specifically. indiana has unique statute that was passed in 1988 that prohibits the use of the auto dialers to make calls to consumers. this is across the board.
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we've successfully defended that statute to the federal courts, the seventh circuit court of appeals talking about how we do not allow these calls for any -- other than those like senator nelson mentioned, have opted in. so the schools and the pharmacies and people you refer to in terms of important calls have opted in and we do have those that are still being heard. but i think the points that i want to make, i've got written testimony that i've submitted but i'll kind of summarize briefly. really, the focus of our attention has been on maintaining the protection of our own statutes. so the recent budget bill you mentioned that had the exception for federal debt, now challenges the ability of our state to defend our own statute. since we did not have any exceptions, we can claim there's
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no, let's say, unconstitutional acts on the part of the state, so now that we have this new exception for federal debt, i know the case that's recently filed by the american association of political consultants challenges the constitutionality and according to our read of the seventh circuit court of appeals and our own defense we've got risks now whether that exception might raise the question about whether it's unconstitutionally distinguishing between certain types of calls. we have a blanket exception. it's been very effective. we have been able to defend, but based on the fact we did not have those types of exceptions that now the federal government has allowed. i just briefly i'll say that, you know, in the last month alone, according to you mail, which is a national robo call
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index, they estimate 2.5 billion robo calls were made in the month of march. so again, the barrage of this. i had to ask my staff whether that was a legitimate number because i couldn't believe it. but unless someone wants to argue the other side, i'll just leave it that that's the only number we've got in terms of the volume of these. we do have a very specific sense of what a robo call, the auto dialer is when it can blast out 10,000 calls a minute it's a robo caller. when you say you get a call on a new line, it's not that they actually called you. they called everybody in the area code. so within an hour and a half you can literally call everybody in washington, d.c. we've heard from a number of companies that really need the opportunity to call cell phones. but, again i will side with
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senator nelson's view that that's the last link in terms of the ability to communicate, since most of us have long since pulled out our land line due to the robo calling abuse. and again, most of it is from overseas, again, not something that either state attorneys general or the federal government can address. frankly, the problems that we have with robo calls, i've warned all the citizens of our state if it's a robo call you should assume it's a scam artist. it's the best tool for scam artists. so anytime you see these calls, we've trained the people of indiana, hang up as quickly as you can because, frankly, anything you say or do, even just staying on the line, will actually be sold to others. the information that you're going to be home on a wednesday at 10:30 is now known by the people who have done the robo calling and they sell that to
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others that may want to use other techniques to call you at that same time and place. knowing you'll be home, the likelihood, again, the risk to seniors is where we see this. the use of this technology to collect data when we talk about scam artists you're really talking about the old version of a confidence man. the more they understand about you, the more they can win over your confidence. and knowing when you're going to be home, time, place, and the ability to target people with the amount of information, the risk to consumers are not just the harassment. this is the number one tool to gain the information that the scam artists are using to bilk particularly the seniors in our state. i'll finally just say we were very disappointed with the exception that was carved out. without this type of hearing we're having a hearing after the fact of the budget bill which, again, the chairman noticed that
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it was put in without this kind of attention. i'm representing it now 25 attorneys general who have asked you take up the hang up act. which would take that back out. so why we've made an exception which, again, risks the constitutionality defense, plus you're targeting particularly the younger students who are using their cell phone and now that we've managed to run up a $1.3 trillion of student loan debt that will be the number one target. we're worried about where this ends. we're against creating a safe harbor. number of reasons we can go through. but, finally, i would just say that the point that -- for years, 25 years now of having the tcpa, there's always been the opportunity for legitimate businesses to ask people to opt in.
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we have new programs that you may want to know about. please sign up and we won't harass you. we'll use it very specifically. you can always opt out. but we've never seen anyone really go through this process of asking consumers whether they would like to get a robo call. so, again, without the trial of going through the process of trying to get people's opt in consent, the assumption should be made that people don't want this and businesses know that they will never get people to sign up for a robo call unless they can argue the case to their own customers. this shouldn't be something that the federal government allows, that the people that you represent have made it clear that they don't want. thank you. >> thank you very much. >> miss wahlquist. >> good morning.
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that was my good mornings. my name is becca wahlquist. i'm honored to represent the u.s. chamber of commerce and the chamber of institute for legal reform testifying before you today. the context for my knowledge about the tcpa is that for over a decade i've defended various companies sued under the tcpa for variety of communications. so i've been a first hand witness to the growing cottage industry of plaintiffs lawyers who have been targeting american businesses. i can confirm in the past few years the problem with tcpa litigation abuse have only worsened. we need your help. over-incentified plaintiffs and an anti-business 2015 order from the fcc have led to an explosion of litigation in our country. litigation that is less about protecting consumers and more about driving a multimillion dollar commercial enterprise of tcpa lawsuits. the suits are not about marketing calls and not about
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the kinds of robo calls we were hearing out. robo calls are the indiscriminate calls trying to get someone to pick up the phones. robo calls are not what my my clients have sent. so for example, a customer's credit card payment is rejected. the customer has provided a telephone number as their point of contact to the company. the company then contacts the customer, to let them know your credit card has been rejected. because if they don't know that and their service gets turned off, there is fees to get your service turned back on again. this is trying to provide information to a customer. the biggest drive of litigation now is if that number has been reassigned and the company has no knowledge about the reassignment. who they then send the message to ends up being a new owner. that's what driving a big chunk
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of tcpa litigation now. you now have someone that says i didn't consent to get the call. especially if they don't inform the company the calls can roll in for other reasons. then you now have 40 calls, i want my $20,000. and you get the demand. this is what companies are facing over and over again. the tcpa does not provide for attorney fees. it's clear lawsuits are a lawyer driven business at this point. attorneys fees awards are are getting pulled from common class funds, dwarfing what consumers receive. in 2014, the average attorneys fees awarded was $2.4 million. the average class members award would be $4.12. it's not just large companies who are finding themselves targeted. small businesses throughout the country are finding themselves brought into court when they had no intention of violating a law.
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they had no knowledge of the tcpa. i have a client who has six employees. and found me on the internet because i talk about tcpa and took on their case. and if they can't -- they're not sure what to do they're going to have to shutter their business and fire their employees if they can't get past the lawsuit that's being brought on a class action basis by someone who received a call at a reassigned number. small businesses throughout the country, a wide range of industries. you have literally thousands of different companies are being sued under the tcpa. social media companies, electric companies, banks, sports teams, pharmacies, family-owned plumbing companies. ski resort. accountant. local dentist office. they've found themselves facing tcpa litigation and facing for what for them is annihilating statutory litigations for gotcha violations.
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and these are not spoofing robo calls. these are legitimate communications that these companies are trying to make. the tcpa is not only a liability trap it's a vicarious liability trap as well. for example, there's companies that make no calls. they have no telemarketing, no interaction with consumers such as manufacturers. and they're finding themselves getting dragged into tcpa litigation on the argument that your product name was mentioned in the spoofed robo call i received. and because your name was mentioned you're on the hook and you are responsible. and this is a problem because you have companies with deep pockets now in litigations having to defend themselves on a class-action basis. where the statutory damages are so potentially annihilating it forces settlements rather than a defense. i provided examples in my witness statement of some of the litigation abuse such as the pennsylvania woman who
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subscribes to 35 phones and carries them in a suit case with her. so she could jot down the calls she gets. she chooses area codes from florida areas so that they are more likely to have potentially socio economically depressed conditions. she chooses the area codes carefully and waits for reassigned numbers to come in and brings hundreds of suits. i mentioned the ohio man who was so resistant to putting his number on the do not call list he fought up through the ohio supreme court to be able to keep getting calls because he wanted to bring suits under them, didn't want to be on the do-not-call list. there are a lot of plaintiffs making their living now at tcpa plaintiffs. i provided examples of tcpa attorneys who are behind quite a bit of litigation abuse. it's been 25 years since the tcpa was drafted. and the equipment that was focused on was equipment that doesn't even exist anymore. the original intent of the tcpa is something i discuss in part
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two of my statement. i ask you to review that. to think about the changes that need to made. i make suggestions in part five of my statement. i'm here today to sum up the voice the of thousands of businesses sued under the tcpa, that congress will update the tcpa and alleviate the intolerable and unfair businesses that are being placed on legitimate american businesses. >> thank you, ms. saunders? >> chairman, senator nelson, senator markey, members of the committee, thank you very much for inviting me to testify today on behalf of the national consumer law center and eight other national groups that collectively represent millions of american consumers. we believe robo calls cause a severe problem. we ask that you defend the tcpa and work to strengthen it.
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25 years ago, the tcpa was passed because of the complaints about robo calls which are still pouring in. the problem is that robo calls cost only a tiny fraction of a penny per call. making it cheaper for businesses to make the calls than to be careful about who they are calling. the tcpa was designed today insure that consumers control who robo calls them on their cell phone, by requiring express consent before the calls can be made. unless there is an emergency and many of the examples that senator thune raised were emergencies that should fall under the exception already in the law. the industry is making extravagant claims about spurious lawsuits and wrongful class-actions churning new
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claims litigating tcpa. all to support their insistence that the law be changed. yet the judicial system has a robust mechanism to protect against meritless claims. as tcpa claims don't lead to attorney's fees, the costs of initiating investigating and litigating a lawsuit already restricts these cases, only to those in which numerous illegal calls have been made. in 2015, there were over three and a half million complaints to the ftc, far more than any other issue for robo calls. for every 1,000 complaint, only one lawsuit was filed. most consumers who have received unwanted robo calls don't complain to a federal agency. only one-tenth of 1% of those that did complain filed. here are a few of many examples of the cases brought to stop the
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unwanted barrage of robo calls. yahoo sent 27,000 wrong number text messages to one consumer refusing to stop even after the fcc got involved to ask them to stop. state farm bank made 327 robo calls to one consumer in six months, seeking to collect a debt owed by someone else. time warner cable used an automated system involving zero human capacity to make 153 robo calls to a woman who had never been a customer, including 74 calls made after she filed suit. in all of these cases business entities set loose an automated system that called a consumer's phone multiple times, even after the consumers repeat attempts to stop the calls. in each case the caller had decided it was simply more cost effective to ignore the express
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wishes of these consumers and continue to make these automated calls. 70 million people approximately rely on this country on prepaid or life line cell phones which provide a fixed number of minutes. many of these consumers are low income. and they rely on these limited minutes for essential calls. an unwanted robo call eat into the essential minutes. any one of the industry proposals would lead to the receipt of more unwanted robo calls to all cell phone users and would be devastating to these users with limited minutes. for example, the industry argues the fcc's long-standing definition of auto dialer is wrong. based on the notion that the current definition covered too many instruments. this making the distinction effectively meaningless. but the definition the industry proposes would exclude all of the technology that's currently being used to make calls.
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unfortunately, section 301 of the budget act passed last october to create an exemption to the tcpa that permits collectors of federal debt primary student loan borrowers as well as taxpayers pursued by private collectors to be made without the consent of the consumer. this is dangerous precedent that will impact over 61 million americans and it should be repealed. we strongly support the hangup act which repeals section 301. it's evident consumers need more protection from such abuses, not less. continued enforcement of the tcpa is critical and we ask that you support consumers in this battle. thank you. >> thank you, ms. saunders. mr. rich lovich. >> chairman thune and members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony for the record. i serve as the national legal
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counsel for the american association of healthcare administrative management. which is a national organization actively representing the interest of healthcare administrative management professionals through a comprehensive program of legislative and regulatory monitoring and participation in many industry groups. i appreciate you holding the hearing today. on these important issues. as you know the fcc last july ruled on more than 20 petitions seeking clarifications to the telephone consumer protection and the fcc tcpa rules. we were one of the petitioners and sought a clarification of what prior consent means. as well as a partial exemption from the act to facilitate important healthcare related calls. the fcc's ruling did not clarify consent and exempted certain type of calls. may by health care providers. they cannot be financial in nature. because of the ambiguity of the term prior express consent and related entities are protected many well-intended healthcare
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organizations have been sued and tcpa litigation continues to sky rocket. to be clear, healthcare providers cannot do their jobs effectively, efficiently or cost effectively without using appropriate technology. the tcpa inhibits the use of such technology and as a result drives the cost of healthcare higher. the tcpa was intended to protect consumers from receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls in their homes at all hours of the day and night by restricting the use of auto dialers and requiring consent to be called. we fully support the goal and mission of the tcpa in helping to reduce unsolicited telemarketing calls. the complaints mentioned today are not involving healthcare providers. despite the positive intent, 25 years since its passage the tcpa has become out dated. it prevents americans from receiving non-marketing service messages they want including health care appointment reminders. social security disability
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eligible. and payment options and credit card fraud alerts. notifications of travel changes. package delivery information and many more. further it prevents them from receiving the communications on devices they prefer, specifically their mobile telephones. at the time the tcpa legislation was passed, over 90% of u.s. house holds relied on their home or land line phone. today the trend is away from land line phones. in fact, nearly half of all homes rely exclusively on wireless technology. since the enactment of the tcpa the use of text messaging has exploded. in 2012 more than $2.9 trillion text messages were sent and received. this could not have been anticipated when the tcpa was first enacted. to make matters worse, new laws and regulations have been passed that make compliance more difficult. two examples of the affordable care act and the new irs regulations dealing with charitable hospitals. the aca requires hospitals and
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outpatient clinics to perform post discharge follow up with patients to reduce the rate of re-admission which is a big contributor to the cost of healthcare. we know the reminders surveys and education that have proven to lower readmission rates can be successfully and cost effectively conducted by phone. however, this cannot be economically done under the current tcpa. similarly, the irs is 501 r regulation create another unfunded mandate. they require hospitals to make reasonable inquiries. by requiring the use of more labor intensive methods, the fcc and tcpa decisions have added unnecessary expense, diverting resources that could be dedicated to patient care. in today's technologically burgeon society it makes no sense for the fcc to allow
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technology to be contacted via land line but not cell phones. the fcc is looking at the modernization of the tcpa in the wrong way. the fcc should be looking at balancing the needs of consumers to obtain healthcare and other information quickly and efficiently through their mobile devices. and, also, be protected by the strong anti-telemarketing rules that already exist. we urge congress to modernize the tcpa to allow automated dialing technology to be used to text or call mobile phones as long as these texts or calls are not for telemarketing purposes. mr. chairman and ranking member nelson, modernization of the tcpa in the healthcare arena is not a partisan issue. nor should it be. we point out the need for government regulations to keep pace with the needs of today's consumers and businesses. it's about government working to bring healthcare costs down for consumers, not drive them up by continuing to require adherence to out dated rules and regulations. the current tcpa invites parties
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to pressure care givers for huge payouts. lawsuits, even unsuccessful ones extraordinary time cost and effort to defend. thus rob hospitals of the ability to fulfill their mission. which is delivering quality healthcare at a reasonable cost. thank you for this opportunity. if you have any questions feel free to contact me. i would love to work with the committee. on real solutions to this very important issue. >> thank you. good morning, chairman, ranking member nelson and members of the committee. thank you very much for the opportunity to address the effects of the tcpa on consumers and businesses. my name is monica dasai. i'm a partner at squire patten bogs i'm testifying in my individual capacity and not on behalf of a specific client. before joining the firm, i spent over a decade in senior positions at the fcc. including service as chief of the government and consumer affairs bureau which is the
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bureau that oversees the tcpa policy and rules. in private practice i worked with a wide range of clients in various industry sectors on tcpa compliance. they all share one very serious dilemma. how to manage risk in an environment where the normal expected or desired way to communicate is by calling a cell phone or sending a text and where regulators and industry standards require certain outbound communications via a call or a text. but where every single call to a cell phone or every single text carries with it the potential risk of damages. when congress implemented the tcpa it struck a careful balance in protecting consumers from abusive calls. that made them feel frightened and harassed. protecting public safety entities and businesses from the jammed phone lines caused by specialized dialing equipment that automatically dialled thousands of numbers and
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protecting normal expected or desired communications. today, there are no longer any safeguards protecting callers from tcpa liability for normal communications. it doesn't matter if you're a national bank, a local blood bank or tyra banks you may have obtained prior express consent. but you will never know for certain before you make a call whether that number has been reassigned. the fcc created a safe harbor but it doesn't work. the safe harbor doesn't apply after one single reassigned call. whether or not there's any actual knowledge of a reassignment. you may be using modern technology that does not use or even have a random number generator. but according to the fcc, you're still using an automatic telephone dialing system if your equipment has something more than the theoretical potential to be modified at some hypothetical point in the future
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to become an atds. no one knows what it means. it's not workable and not what congress intended. as a result, beneficial consumer communications are chilled. compliance minded entities are put into a catch-22. consumers trying to manage default and companies trying to engage in financial education are punished. first, many types of important and beneficial consumer communications trigger tcpa risk in the current environment, including communications from utilities to warn of service outages, mobile health programs such as text for baby, schools to provide attendance notifications, and credit unions to provide low balance alerts. political candidates to provide information regarding town halls and election information. the list goes on and on and on. second, while the environment surrounding communications has become increasingly punitive. other regulatory agencies are encouraging and even requiring
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contact through phone calls and texts. companies are diverting resources from core business functions and taking inefficient steps to mitigate risks. for example, companies are replacing modern technologies which have many consumer benefits with low tech system and fat finger dialing. although this creates a higher risk of wrong-number calls. larger companies with more resources are paying for multiple data bases without an assurance of additional accuracy. small businesses often can't afford to do so. companies are requiring consumers to provide notice of any phone number change. and subjecting them to lawsuits for failure to do so. finally, i want to emphasize that not getting a call doesn't mean that a debt will go away. what a call is likely to do if a person is reached is educate the consumer about available repayments option and potentially avoid negative consequences such as the shutting off of a service, bad
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credit report, foreclosure or other legal remedy. the department of education stated when services are able to contact a borrower they have a better chance helping the borrower resolve the delinquency. or the default. in conclusion, i very much i appreciate the commerce committee wants to understand how the tcpa is impacting consumers and businesses today. i have three recommendations for restoring the balance that congress works so hard to achieve. first, i would ask congress to support the creation of a reassigned numbers data base and allow a safe harbor for any caller who checks against the data base to confirm that a number has not been reassigned. a second quicker step would be for congress to confirm that when it created a statutory defense for prior express consent of the called party, it did not intend for that defense to be meaningless. third, congress should confirm that when it defined an automatic telephone dialing system it did not intend to
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broadly sweep into the definition any and every modern dialing technology. congress did not intend for the tcpa to be a trap. and with consumers ultimately suffering the consequences. and with consumers suffering the consequences. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. let's start with five minute rounds of question. i'll start with miss wahlquist. as you know, the fcc has concluded service outages interruptions and supply of water gas or electricity could in many instances pose significant risk to public health and safety and the use of rerecorded message calls could speed the dissemination of information regarding service interruptions or other potentially hazardous conditions to the public end quote. nonetheless, and despite receiving consent a number of utilities have faced litigation and
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potentially ruinous judgments for making such calls. do you agree that the commission action on the edison electric institutes and the american gas association's petition for declaratory ruling filed with the commission over a year ago would help utilities avoid meritless but costly litigation for these notices? do you think that ruling is long overdue? >> i would agree it would be helpful to the electric companies to have that ruling. i agree it is overdue. i'm concerned it would be one more exception that the fcc would add into the check box of here's a few kinds of calls we think are okay. and in the 2015 order, they listed a few and this would add a few more. so the electric companies can say something about outage. and the problem is there's all of these other calls that consumers would want that
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they've signed up for and asked that businesses are afraid to make or if they're making they're getting sued under the tcpa. i think the fcc does need to rule on that order. and i don't know why it wasn't in the earlier ruling. clearly, people need to know if there's power outages. one of the petitions pointed out people have medical equipment at home that relies on power. we need to be able to alert them to an outage. that should be ruled on. i think there needs to be a much bigger look across the board as calls that are legitimate calls that are generating lawsuits. >> miss dasai, in a recent hearing, the coordinator said, and i quote, let me take a moment to acknowledge a positive development which is a decision some banks and credit unions have made to provide consumers realtime information about the funds in their accounts available to be spent. they are doing this through text and e-mail alerts which can reduce the risks that consumers
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inadvertently overspend, end quote. how can banks, credit unions and other financial institutions increase communication with their consumers if they have the threat of tcpa litigation hanging over their heads? >> thank you, you raise a very important point. there are all types of time sensitive consumer beneficial communications such as the example you raises available funds to reduce the risk of overspending but also high purchase alerts, low balance alerts. these types of time sensitive communications are only possible through modern technology. these communications can't be made through a rotary phone. and this is the heart of the challenge, not only for my financial institution clients, but frankly, all of my clients who engage in communications with consumers and with their customers. they are paying a significant cost for the additional risk
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that any time-sensitive communication they make runs the risk of being sent to a reassigned number. and that is a factor that they cannot fully control. as a result, many of my clients are choosing to decrease beneficial elective communications through cell phone or text because they know that every single one of these communications does carry that additional risk. >> mr. love ich, you stated the, quote, the practical impact of tcpa restrictions on the care provider community is devastati devastating, end quote. i'm wondering, if you could elaborate on what that devoting so many resources to tcpa compliance means for patient care. >> thank you, i think that's the most important question i could be asked today. it does impact upon patient care, which is the most important aspect of providing healthcare. as any other enterprise a hospital has to make economic decisions when they are dealing with a finite pot of resources.
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if the resources have to be dedicated to deal with the tcpa, that requires necessary staffing. if that impacts the number of nurses that are there to treat patients, it reduces the direct interaction between the nurses and the patient. the delivery of direct follow-up instructions. other instructions with regard to the patient care. there have been studies done by the department of health and human services, the agency for health care and research and quality has found the reduction in nursing staffing has a direct relationship to negative patient outcomes with regard to the treatment of their conditions. so the more resources that have to be dedicated to the non-use of up-to-date technology, calls from that pool of talent that is not being directed to patient care. and i don't think that's something we want to do as a nation. >> my time has expired. i have other questions but
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i'll hand it over to mr. nelson. >> i'm going to defer my questions until later. i want to introduce a thought. the law says it's illegal robo calls on cell phones. yet consumers receive millions t our consumers receive millions of those robocalls on cell phones. can you imagine if we made it legal what would happen? i'm going to defer and let our members ask their questions first. >> next up is senator blount. i'm sorry, that's right. we'll keep it even. i have blumenthal not here. senator mccaskill would be up. >> so this is not that complicated. all you have to have is the permission of the person you're calling and call them. i mean, you guys make this sound
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like this is an impossible thing to do. i mean, mr. lovich you have somebody who leaves your hospital and you guys can't manage to get their permission to follow up by the phone and call them? why is that so economically difficult for you? >> thank you, senator. the problem is, as my colleague had indicated in her testimony, is that the plaintiffs bar has taken the opportunity to twist the language with regard to the use of consent and chosen to sue most of the members of my association regarding the inexact i attitude
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you guys need to understand this, this is the biggest consumer problem in the country. no bigger problem. and some of these witnesses you all are in here whining about these poor business and consumers really want these. they don't want them. they don't want them. they do not want -- when somebody has a reassigned number you need to call them 40 times to figure out it was a reassigned number? that was your testimony. what about mail? can you drop them a note in the mail and figure out they have a different phone number? >> senator, the problem is that not all the numbers are reassigned. there's numbers that are wrongly provided from the start. and if it was just that one number, it would be the issue. the issue is that as long as there's one number, then a class action is brought. you have a class action. there was no statute of limitations putting into the tcpa when it was drafted.
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so all of a sudden all phone calls made by that company for four years are at issue. that's what makes it not simple. >> let me ask you, mr. zoeller, have the complaints gone down or up on robo calls in the last several years? >> they've gone up every year in our office. and we're on track to set all new records yet this year. >> so you would think that if in fact these lawsuits were really damaging the cost of doing business in this country, you would see the opposite impact, wouldn't you? attorney general? >> well, you know, i think the massive amounts of phone calls are not from people being represented here. so the problem we have are the bulk calls that come from overseas where none of us have the ability other than i guess i'll throw the fcc under the bus, that they're the only ones who can regulate those huge massive calls that originate
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outside of our jurisdiction. so without any enforcement ability, those are the ones that really are let's say well over half of the complaints we get. >> although i will tell you, i know you work with my attorney general chris koster closely, the amount of insurance company, lawn care service home security company and a charity for violating missouri law. this is a real problem. by the way, ms. wall kwist, i would just suggest. this i no he that the carriers are all members of the chamber. we know from hearings we've had in this committee that the technology is available that the carriers could adopt. and it's been clarified by the fcc that there is no duty to connect calls that prohibits them from adopting this technology. they can adopt the technolo technolotechnologyand make it available to the consumers that allows the
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consumers to opt out without having to take these calls. and what we're really trying to do here, we're not trying to punish people with litigation. we're trying to put power in the hand evers the consumer. and this may not be the most artful way to do it, but i will just speak for me and i think probably for a whole lot of people who run for office that hang out around here, if you think i'm backing up on going after people who are making robocalls in light of what i encounter every day from people i meet including my own family, i mean, my son can't get two companies to quit calling him on his cell company. he finally handed the phone to me. you know, and i said, i'm a u.s. senator, i'm going to sue you. guess what? they called him 15 minutes later. >> senator, i think those are really the bad actors that need to be targeted that have been getting targeted and would have liability under whatever modification you're doing to the
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tcpa. because i'm not saying that when somebody receives notice, this is a wrong number, and they receive it in a reasonable way where they know they should have a little bit of chance to implement the knowledge and the calls should stop. and if he haven't -- >> but they don't. ask ms. saunders. they don't stop. >> she has some examples of ones that didn't. i have processes and procedures in place with most of my clients where this is -- it works for 99% of the time. but you have human error. you have something that doesn't happen. you might have a vendor that hasn't been following the company's procedures and policies and didn't record the do not call. companies don't want to call the people that aren't their clients. we're trying to call our customers to convey information to those kmerz. there's no desire to continue to call someone who's not a customer with this information. >> doesn't feel like that on the receiving end. it doesn't feel lake that. i'm just telling you chblt th i. that's not the perception consumers have. thank you, mr. chairman. >> we'll go to the other half of the missouri duo here, senator
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blunt. >> exactly. thank you, chairman. what i think attorney general zoeller said was that half of the robocalls come from out of the country. what can we do about that? >> senator, that's a great question. and again, between addressing this with the fcc which has the regulatory authority and the carriers which i'll agree with the senator your colleague that they do have some ability, they pointed to one another for years. so up until recently i've always been critical of the fcc and their failure to regulate. the carriers have always said, we're nervous about whether we have the ability to use the technology. now that they passed the rule which we've long asked for, the ball is back to the carriers to say, why aren't you using the technology that's currently available to block some of these -- and we're not talking
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about any of the types of calls that you're hearing about. these are the massive calls that literally call everybody in an area code. so when i get the complaint, i literally tell people, don't feel too special because they called 9,999 other people that same minute. so it's only the fcc and the carriers somewhere in that finger pointing is the answer to your question. >> well, it seems to me that one of the things you said is exactly the crux of what we're talking about here. we're talking about two different problems. we're talking about massive robocalls, half of them based on your information from outside the country and then the other thing is people legitimately trying to contact someone whose number they either no longer have or never had given to them in the correct way. surely there's some way we can separate this discussion where we deal with these problems in the way they ought to be dealt
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with. you know, i've heard that some banks, for instance, no longer even try to notify on what they would see as a routine problem that i'd like to be notified of, some activity in my account that doesn't seem to make sense. is that -- where they don't notify me because they think they might be calling a number they're not sure of? is that a real problem? >> yes. and the american bankers association actually submitted a filing on exactly that issue. i mean, it is a problem. you know, i wish it was as easy as just simply getting consent. but once you have consent, you have to be able to rely on that consent. and the problem with tcpa liability, the way it's been interpreted, is that you cannot any longer rely on that consent because there's no way of knowing if a number has been reassigned. and that's why they're increasing numbers of banks and
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other institutions that are afraid to make routine calls or send routine messages. >> does anybody on the panel know, how long does it take to rereassign a number? if i give up my cell phone number, is there a definite period that that can't be available to anybody else? how long does it take before somebody else is answering the number i used to have that i gave the hospital or i gave the bank or i gave the college? how long might it be before somebody else has that number? >> senator, it depends on the provider of the cell phone number. i think it can be as short as 30 days. some providers wait six months before reassignment. it's just kind of a hodgepodge. part of the problem also is the business doesn't know who the cell phone provider is on any given number. you wouldn't know the time frame in which it's switching out. >> but if it was six months, let's say we had a rule that you couldn't do it any quicker than
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six months, anybody that had gotten my cell phone number earlier than six months wouldn't have any certainty that it was still my number. is that right? until they called it. ms. saunders, does that sound right to you? >> yes, sir. but i think the cell phone companies may not agree to wait six months because some cell phone companies have a smaller batch of numbers that they're going to want to recirculate. but if i might, i think that several of us agree on this panel that one way of dealing with the calls to reassign numbers is for there to be a mandatory database that all cell phone companies participate in that would allow callers to access and ask, when was the last time this particular phone number was transferred? and once that answer is provided, the caller would know whether or not they had valid consent. and the problem with the situation now is apparently
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there are no full databases that include all the cell phone companies. so i think several of us on different sides of this issue have all been encouraging both the cell phone companies and the fcc to either voluntarily do this or mandate it. but that would solve a lot of the litigation against the wrong -- about the wrong number calls. >> it just seems to me, mr. chairman, that we've got two very different problems here. one, it's really easy to be outraged about and the missouri delegation senator mccaskill usually deals with the outrage better than i do. and i appreciate that. and i like to see that happen. >> it's called good cop/bad cop. >> maybe so. and the other one is a problem that we're all sympathetic to. if we could figure out how to divide this discussion into those two categories, we're much more likely to find a solution to both problems than not.
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and i hope we can figure out how to do that. >> thank you, senator blunt. and that suggestion is one we may want to explore and take a look at if everybody sort of agreed that that would make sense. i know definitely in the missouri delegation if i have to call somebody i'm going to call the good cop. somebody doesn't like unsolicited phone calls. i have up next senator cloeb ashar is back, then senator dainz. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman and senator nelson for your leadership on this as well as many others. i'm a co-sponsor of the hang-up act to repeal a provision from the bipartisan budget act of 2015 allowing robocalls to cell phones for the collection of debt owed to the government. ms. saunders, in your tx, you estimate that this provision would impact 61 million people. you also point out that in many
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cases debt collectors do not have accurate information about who owes the debt. mr. zoeller, you testified that 90% offer your debt collection complaints your office received last year were because the caller was harassing the wrong person. in both of your opinions, how significantly does the provision under -- we just did the senior tour around minnesota, our staff and my own experiences meeting with people, robocalls are really still one of the number one things they list as something that is really -- they're very angry about it, they get sucked into things they don't want to. well, you know all about it. ms. saunders? >> we think the provision is very dangerous. one of the concerns -- one of the many concerns that i have heard is that the ftc and other government agencies such as attorney general zoeller's tell people not to answer any robocalls. the ftc has said publicly
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repeatedly the irs won't call you. but now because the irs can hire debt collectors and because the irs debt collectors can robocall without consent, that advice from the ftc, that is no longer available. yet how do people receiving scam calls know the difference? so i can go on, but i -- the problem is tremendous. >> right. >> and it is not a good resolution to allow consumers who owe money to be called more. >> yes. attorney general zoeller? >> you know, i'll add to that my earlier focus about, you know, in carving out the exception, we may well have lost the ability to defend the tcpa as a constitutional matter because, again, in our experience going up through the indiana and then the seventh circuit court of
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appeals, it was because we did not distinguish between the types of calls being prohibited that it was neutral. once you've started to carve this out, and i think it almost goes back to the point about looking at these things differently. the very different part about creating a better defense, we're not against defending and i think it would go a long way to eliminate some of the let's say the frivolous litigation and i'm not here to defend the trial bar. but i think to create a better defense as opposed to an exception, once you've got these exceptions, our ability to defend these statutes really is compromised. >> and you point to the phone scams involving government empersonation. i know often these scams involve someone spoofing to try to fool a victim into thinking they're someone calling from the government. and if we don't pass this hang-up act or some kind of strong anti-spoofing legislation, do you think you
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would see more of this going on? >> well, i got a little bit numb to it until they started to spoof using office of the indiana attorney general. >> well, there you go. >> so i'll stand as outraged. >> okay, that's pretty bad. so you've actually had people use your own office name. and what were they calling to say that they wanted to do? >> there were a number of issues, but again the fact that i was constantly telling people, you know, to be careful of this, the spoofing, and that you can't really rely on it, they can put any number up there, okay, it's another violation of the law. but by the time they were using mine, it was because we were so public about, of course you can trust the office of the attorney general. so what little credibility my office tries to maintain and trust was being used against us. >> exactly. it's been 13 years now since the do not call registry was started. while there are more than 222 million numbers registered, it shows that the public is
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incredibly supportive of this concept, on this list there are also more complaints than ever robocalls and tech spamming have proliferated due to advanced technologies which were discussed here earlier. again, to both of you, we know that more needs to be done to protect consumers from fraudsters and robocalls. what in your opinion is the most specific limitation of the do not call program in addressing the current robocalling problem? >> i think we've mentioned it here, and it's the spoofing problem. while i very much appreciate senator nelson's bill on anti-spoofing, we really think that the law needs to be much more heavyhanded and require that the cell phone -- that all of the phone companies adopt anti-spoofing technology. i find it very hard to believe in this day and age with the -- >> when the technology is out there. that you would pass senator nelson's bill and then also add in this? >> yes, ma'am. >> attorney general?
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>> well, while we're doing that, you know, the idea of having some ability to stop all of the illegal ones that are being done from overseas, i thai's something that, you know, technology has gotten us into this problem and we really need to focus on how can it get out? so when the fcc passed their recent regulation, i know the carrierers were concerned that they were going to require the use of the technology to block the overseas calls. when that wasn't in there, i know they all had a sigh of relief. but quite frankly we were all hoping that it would be in there. >> got it. i'm not going to do anything more. i'm over time. but as you know, i've been doing a lot on the call completion issue, dropped calls. so i'll put something on the record, some questions on that. we're hoping to have a markup soon. thank you. >> we're going to senator danes and senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
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i brought along a phone from 1992. the size of it is only exceeded by its weight. it would make a good boat anchor. and this is 25 years old and it is approximately the same time the last time the tcpa was enacted. we can see how far technology has come from this device to what i have in my hand, my iphone 6. it's reduced the need for a lot of phone calls because the power of the knowledge here where i can make an airline reservation, i can do my online banking, i can snap chap corey booshge ebo. i can do a lot of things here on my iphone 6 the as we've heard toefd, 25 years later, unwanted phone calls are still among the top consumer complaints. and even when consumers do file lawsuits for violations, it seems like the trial lawyers are the only ones that truly benefit. in fact, i've heard the tcpa has
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even been referred to with the nickname the total cash for plaintiffs' attorneys. ms. wa hhlkwist, consumers are still receiving unwanted calls. in your testimony, in fact, you say the average payout to the trial lawyers on a case in 2014 i believe was $2.4 million while the consumer's average payout was $4.12. is the tcpa really helping consumers today? >> senator, i just really don't think that it is. the abuses that are happening on the litigation side, i mean, it's really become a lawyer-driven statute when we have the constitutes for it. and the kinds of calls that are driving everyone crazy -- and i get them, too -- the spoofed calls and that's not what is getting -- nobody would sue for that. there's no money. there's no pocket at the end of it.
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so, for example, i have a restaurant client that had an opt-in put on their menu, if you want to get our coupons on a weekly basis, text us this and we'll start sending them to you. this purely opt-in thing that a lot of young people joined in and were doing. one text message that was sent that one plaintiff's lawyer brought a suit on and suddenly my client is facing $32 million in statutory damages for that single text message that went to the club. and stopped the club. nobody is getting the coupons anymore. and this kind of thing doesn't benefit consumers. now nobody is getting coupons. >> a state like montana we have a lot of small businesses. they're not trying to call their customers to sell them products they don't need. they're not inundating them with texts and faxes. but they are trying to reach their customers tremind them of appointments or alert them to a potential service disruption.
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is it reasonable to ask a small business to comply with the 2015 tcpa order? >> i think the interpretations provided by the fcc in 2015 were particularly damaging for small businesses. it's -- you know, they have no way of -- they shouldn't have to check a database to see if the number that they were provided by their own customer has suddenly been reassigned. they probably can't afford to do so. and if they did, it wouldn't give them -- it might not give them an accurate answer anyway. i think it's -- it's expensive for a small business to have to turn to manual dialing in order to reach their customers. >> so i grew up in a small business. my mom and dad run a little construction business. their compliance department would be my mom and dad versus a large business where a compliance department could be an entire wing of a headquarters
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building. so what kinds of compliance costs and challenges would these small businesses face? >> well, you know, in order to be completely shore that they're using dialing equipment that won't trigger tcpa liability, they'd have to invest in a rotary phone if they could find one. they would have to try to figure out on a regular basis whether the numbers that they've been provided consent to call are still accurate. i don't have dollar figures for you. i don't know. even my large clients who have thousands of employees have a difficult time trying to figure out how to hangmanage tcpa risk. i can't imagine what a young company would have to do. >> i want to bring up this issue of rural health care. again, a lot who serve on this
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community are from rural states. if you visit montana, hospitals aren't around every corner. patients rely on technology to communicate with their doctors, oftentimes 30, 40, 50 miles from a hospital, even further. can you explain how today's application of the tcpa impacts patients in rural communities who do not have easy access to a clinic. >> certainly. thank you, senator. i would think that the impact on a rural community would be even more devastating than one in a metropolitan community. the interaction between the physician and the patient in and the health care provider is a sacred relationship and if there isn't an ability to, for example, follow up on in-patient care, to provide instructions with regard to further care, remind people about prescription pickups, remind people about appointments, it all would be devastating to the effectiveness of the health care that's provided. one of the things that the health care community is trying to do is cut down on readmissions. that is a tremendous drain on the health care system, when a patient isn't adequately treated the first time because of the rush to discharge them.
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with adequate instruction, adequate interaction between the caregiver and the patient, readmissions will reduce and therefore the overall cost of health care will go down. the inability to use the most current technology to pursue that end is devastating to the industry and just causes more cost and more administrative draining of revenue that, again, impacts on patient care, it reduces the availability of the caregiver to the patient, and that is the essence of the relationship with regard to health care. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator danes. i just want to know where the center for montana came up with the vanilla ice vintage mobile phone there. please tell me you got that at a museum and you're not collecting it. >> i see you doing curls in the gym every morning with this thing. it's heavy enough. >> thank you, senator danes. senator blumenthal. >> thanks, mr. chairman.
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if there is a form of consumer complaint that is common and passionate among the people of connecticut, it is unwanted calls, whether from telemarketers or local officials or politicians. and among those calls the most aggravating and annoying are the robocalls. if we overlook the anger and aggravation caused by these calls, we are doing a grave disservice to the people of america, and they want stronger measures like the ones that i and senator markey have proposed that give consumers essentially more control over the calls they receive. that's essentially it, whether it's through a private right of action or stronger consumer
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protection from government authorities. there's no question in my mind that the present law needs to be updated and upgraded to provide better, swifter, stronger protection because this problem is only going to increase. you do now what i used to do for 20 years, and a lot of your mandate is consumer protection. are you finding an increase in the number of complaints as i have received, for example, from a 76-year-old woman in dayville, connecticut, who says to me, i'm weary of all the robocalls that i receive. can't the senate address this issue which seems noncontroversial to me.
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a 76-year-old research scientist, i have reams of kmrain complaints from people who are upset about these calls. quote, every day i get unwanted robocalls, most annoying. i've reported these to the no call list people, you but nothi nothing is done. that's the reason we have a private right of action, public authorities are doing perhaps less than they should. what's your experience? >> well, senator, as a former attorney general as well as senator ayotte and sullivan, you all kind of remember the days where we literally did have some protection, and i think particularly in indiana and missouri which had the strongest of all do not call laws, we literally had quiet at home. so i think going from the perspective where people knew that they could be stopped, they understood that something was going right, their government
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had protected them, to the point where now the vast majority have taken out their land lines and when i tell them, believe it or not, the u.s. congress is thinking about opening up new exemptions to allow robocalling to cell phones, they're o outraged. so again, not to say that it might diminish the high standing that the congress has held by the public, you really risk the fear that people are going to come here with pitchforks and torches because this is a very passionate -- and i've got plenty of those same stories so you're right on the money. >> well, i've heard the verbal pitchforks and worse, and i think you're absolutely right. for a congress that has done so little to now do something so bad as to dilute the consumer protection laws would be absolutely outrageous. the calls i get are not only outrage but incredulous.
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let me ask ms. saunders, what do you think is preventing the implementation of call blocking software by the phone companies? because again, giving consumers control, empowering consumers is basically the goal of these laws. it's not to restrict calls that consumers want. it's to enable convict sosumer the call that's they find bothersome, annoying, intrusive, invasive, and worse. >> i don't know the answer to that question, senator. i think you'll need to ask the phone companies why they won't employ those call blocking methodologies. i would point to the example of what this congress did 40 years ago when it passed the consumer credit protection act putting the burden on banks for losses when credit cards -- when there
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was credit card fraud. and because the banks had that burden, the banks have been very vigorous in developing anti-fraud protections. so there's very little loss because of the losses that are suffered are then suffered for the banks. if the phone companies had the same losses that resulted from robocalls, especially overseas telemarketi ining spammers, the would be very quick to employ very vigorous anti-spoofing and robocall blocking technologies. >> thank you. my time has expired. i have many more questions and many more comments. i will put them in the record. i do believe that the present penalties and the tcpa are inadequate for bad actors and the repeated violators. i hope that we can strengthen,
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not we can weaken this important federal measure. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator blument l blumenthal. senator markey. >> thank you, mr. chairman, very much. i enjoy this conversation. because we're kind of in the way back machine to a certain extent. senator danes holds up a cell phone from 1992, because when i authored this law in 1991, i am the author of it, it was because there was an epidemic of calls that were going into people's homes. there were no laws. so people were almost afraid to look at their phone at night because it would just start to ring at about 6:00 and it wouldn't stop until 9:30 or 10:00 at night. so we had to put a law on the books. soy was the chairman of the t e telecommunications committee. it's my law. and to senator danes' point
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about the primitive nature of the phone which he had in his hand, i also knew that we were putting in 200 megahertz of spectrum so we could create the third, fourth, fifth and sixth cell phone license in america that we would go digital and everyone would have one in their pocket by the year 1995. so that's how quickly that all changed. so we were building in -- i was building in anticipatory consumer protections. now, when people hold this phone in their pocket right now and it starts to ring, people say, it's probably somebody i know. i think i'll take the call on my wireless device. i think i'll take it. why? because the protections in that law in 1991 are very high for wireless devices. it's probably somebody you know. that's what you think. but when that phone is ringing at home at night, even today, that land line phone, people
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look at it almost terrorized, it could be somebody i don't know. it could be somebody who's going to harass me. it could be somebody that's still calling me the same way they were in 1991 or 2001. and that's the truth. now, should we change the laws to make it easier to call people on these wireless devices? i don't think so. because it's personal. it's on you. how much of an intrusion would that be on people to have that phone going off all day long with these robocalls? and by the way, what happens, of course, senator mccaskill is right on point here, these firms have moved overseas, yeah, but who is paying them? people in america are paying people in india to be ha hassing people so they can get around the laws. that's what's going on. we should try to figure out how to make the laws tougher so that these offshore, overseas calls are harder to make. so if i can, ms. saunders -- and perhaps i was influenced by the
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fact that i did work for the national consumer law center when i was in law school. so maybe i was infected by this philosophy of the consumer should be protected first. i was there the first year the consumer center was established working there as a law student researcher. so can you talk a little bit about this concept of consent? and whether or not it might be possible actually to have the information come in by e-mails or the consumer be able to respond by e-mails rather than having the phone be ringing, the wireless or home phone? are there ways of dealing with this issue that are much less intrusive on the consumer in our country, ms. saunders? >> yes, there are. i think the first point really needs to be made that there's not a constitutional right to ma robocalls. before the automated systems
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developed, businesses communicated quite well with their customers through manual dial calls or e-mails or in the olden days snail mail. and i remember getting calls from my credit card company where they -- i actually had a person on the line who said, there's suspicious activity. is this really your credit card use? and there's no reason that that can't be used when the business is not sure about who actually has consented and currently owns the phone. >> let me ask you, ms. saunders, and you attorney general zoeller, we're talking about last year a relaxation of the laws in terms of being able to call people who have debt. and it's people with student loans, now it's easier to ha
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ha harass them by phone. can you each talk about that and what might be better ways, you know, for people to be communicated with who have debts in our country? attorney general zoeller. >> well, again, i think at the beginning when people sign up for debt, you know, to get their opt-in as part of the transaction -- and again, i'll agree that we could make that defense so, you know, i'm not here to defend again the plaintiffs' bar so tightening up a better line of defense. but i would point out that it's the exceptions that i'm nervous about. when we went to the seventh circuit, it was clear that because we had no exceptions the political free speech against personal privacy, two very important constitutional rights, and we won based on the fact that it was not limiting free
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speech. there's plenty of opportunities to speak just not by ringing the phone. so be careful of the difference between that defensive side which again we would support bolstering, don't make exceptions because you've suddenly picked winners and losers and the courts won't allow that limitation on free speech. >> with your indulgence, mr. chairman, could i ask ms. saunders to respond a little bit? >> the idea that calling a debt a consumer that owes a debt multiple times will assist them in paying back the debt is somewhat flawed. i think the record is full of examples of both consumers who owe the debt and consumers who don't owe the debt being called numerous times robocalled which is harassing and abusive. it's also not particularly helpful and against the -- and not in furtherance of good
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public policy to bother people into paying a debt. >> and again, in last year's budget act, there was a provision snuck in, snuck in, to a must pass piece of legislation that makes it much easier for debt collectors to call consumers, students, 40 million students, who owe student loans and makes it a lot easier for them to do that. and i've introduced the hang-up act that would just stop that. it's absolutely irresponsible. and i ask unanimous consent, mr. chairman, to add two letters to the record, one from 25 attorneys general led by attorney general zoeller who is testifying here today and one from 16 consumer groups who have all written in support of the hang-up act. >> without objection, they'll be part of the record. >> appreciate it, mr. chairman. we thank all of you for being here. >> thank you, senator markey. senator nelson, anything for the -- let me just ask one last
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question. and again, this kind of gets at the point of other regulatory bodies and ms. desai, i think you indicated that some don't have the same views as the fcc when it comes to communicating with consumers via cell phone. have other regulators seen consumer benefits in communicating with consumers via mobile phone or text message? >> oh, sure. yes, thank you for the question. the consumer financial protection board has an early intervention rule that encourages outbound communications. the home affordable modification program. the federal deposit insurance corporation. the federal trade commission. the consumer products safety commission. have all discussed the benefits of outbound communications both by call and by text. there are also state laws that require outbound communications because they see the value in that. for example, with utilities.
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>> well, i just want to make kind of one final point, and that is nobody is proposing that consumer shouldn't have the right to stop unwanted calls at any point. even with the obama robocall carveout that was mentioned a couple of times today that passed last fall, the fcc's proposed rules would allow consumers to demand that a caller stop calling immediately. even if that particular circumstance. and i also want to be very clear, there is i believe and i think you heard here today strong bipartisan interest in ensuring that consumers are protected from harassing robocalls. the problem we have is that the tcpa is no longer working as well as it should. as we've heard, all of us are plagued by unwanted calls, even on our cell phones, which is i think the point that ms. saunders was getting at. at the same time, you have legitimate company that's are facing needless lawsuits and consumers are being denied information that they need.
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and i think what this cries out for is a balanced solution. and your input today and testimony i think has been very helpful in elevating these issues and getting a discussion frankly for that matter i thought hearing some perhaps common ground when it comes to the bad, the harassing, the bad actors and the good actors and perhaps we'll be able to find a way to come up with some solutions that reflect that common ground. so i want to thank you all very much for being here. >> mr. chairman, is it possible i could ask one more question? and that would be it. >> i kind of expected that would happen. senator markey, one more question. >> and i appreciate that. i know it's an unwanted intrusion. >> never unwanted. >> but i thank you. last year's surface transportation bill, the fast
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act, included a provision requiring the irs to hire private debt collectors to collect certain unpaid taxes, attorney general. that means that the irs is going to be hiring many people to go after those who may be unable to pay their taxes. this provision coupled with the tcpa carveout in the budget deal will open the floodgates to private debt collectors, robocalling and robotexting millions of americans. the enactment of the two provisions coincide with the rise of tax and debt collection scams as a serious problem, costing americans millions and millions of dollars. last year bogus tax scams and fake debt collectors topped the better business bureau's list of top scams of 2015 with over 32% of all scam reports about phony tax and debt collectors. so attorney general, will these two changes in the budget and
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transportation laws on robocalls and robotext provisions make it harder for consumers to protect themselves from fraudulent tax and debt collectors? >> well, there's no question looking at those two coupled together that there was this kind of interest. and again, like the chairman said, it was put into the must pass budget. so i think this idea of making the carveout exception really puts consumers at risk because we've told people, you know, the irs will not call you. and that's, don't worry if you do get the call. so this is not going to be a very effective tool to try to go after people other than the harassment that if that's supposed to get things done. and i guess i would leave it that again this carveout, with the exception, is going to make the constitutional question about whether the federal government has now made winners and losers in an area which is really covered with free speech. so you may have really killed
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the whole tcpa by that carveout. >> so they become electronic kind of -- as debt collectors just bothering you all night long. ms. saunders, do you agree with the attorney general? >> yes, i do. >> okay, thank you. i appreciate it. mr. chairman, thank you. i think we should tread carefully. >> we do very much thank you for being here, taking the time and for responding to our questions. and we will keep the hearing record open for two weeks during which time senators are asked to submit any questions for the record and upon receipt we would ask all of you if you could submit your written answers to the committee as soon as possible. thank you all for being here. this hearing is adjourned.
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[ in recess ] [ in recess ]
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[ in recess ] on american history tv on c-span3, this september marks the opening of the smithsonian national museum of afric african-american history and culture. and on saturday morning beginning at 8:30, american history tv is live for an
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all-day conference with scholars from across the country. discussing topics including african-american religion, politics and culture. historic preservation and interpretation. at 10:00 p.m. eastern on real america, the 1975 church committee hearings convened to investigate the intelligence activities of the cia, fbi, irs, and the nsa. the commission hears testimony from two fbi informants, mary jo cook and how she penetrated an anti-vietnam war organization, and gary thomas rowe, who infiltrated the klan and participated in violence against civil rights activists. >> you mean the birmingham policemen set up the beating of the freedom riders and you told the fbi that? >> that's correct, sir. >> and then were they beaten? >> they were beaten very badly, yes. >> and did the birmingham police give you t time that they promised to give you to perform the beating? >> yes, sir. we were promised 15 minutes with absolutely no intervention from
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any police officer whatsoever. >> then at 8:00, on lectures in history -- >> what that opportunity gave them was an opportunity to go to college. they saved some of that money. they sent themselves through college. they sent siblings through college. they became droctors and lawyer. one became the first female manager of any department at northrop airlines. they became principals, surgeons, politicians, pilots. and they were able to do that because they had access to professional baseball. >> marshall university professor katt williams on how women aided the war effort in factories and military auxiliary units and the rise of women's baseball league including the all american girls professional baseball league that was featured in the movie "a league of their own" sunday
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night at 10:00 -- >> ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my name is geraldine ferra ferraro. i stand before you to proclaim tonight america is the land where dreams can come true for all of us. >> the 1984 vice president acceptance speech of new york congresswoman geraldine ferraro at the democratic national convention in san francisco. she was the first woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party. for the complete american history tv weekend schedule, go to now journalist and washington monthly contributor stephen rose discusses the upcoming presidential election. this "washington journal"


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