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House Subcommittee Contemplates Allowing Robo-Calls To Cell Phones

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File photo of a man talking on his cell phone. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

File photo of a man talking on his cell phone. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS Washington) — A House subcommittee is considering passing a bill that would give companies the ability to make machine-generated phone calls, also known as robo-calls, directly to cell phones.

The Mobile Information Call Act of 2011 is presently being reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) is sponsoring the bill, which would serve to update the existing legislation in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The TCPA, put into action in 1991, prohibits calls from any automated dialing service using prerecorded voice messages to mobile phone users.

“The Mobile Informational Call Act reflects the reality of the day,” said Charles Isom, communication director for Rep. Terry’s office, in an e-mail to CBS Washington. “Forty percent of Americans now use mobile phones as their primary or exclusive communications device.”

This act would reportedly update the TCPA by exempting informative calls from the auto-dialer restrictions and clearing up the “prior express content” requirement to allow for communication between consumers and the businesses they solicit.

Proponents of the bill feel that these modernizing moves would allow for better communications between businesses and customers in a tech-reliant world.

“People need to be reached in real time if their flight is delayed, their credit card numbers have been compromised, their medications have been recalled, their electricity restored, and other time-sensitive information they may be interested in,” Isom noted.

Those who are skeptical of the act, however, fear the doors it could potentially open.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, said to political news website The Hill that she is concerned that consumers could accidentally opt in to receiving the calls.

“I’m concerned that in redefining ‘prior express consent,’ as this legislation does, consumers will unknowingly be opening themselves up to receiving future robo-calls any time they provide a business with their mobile number,” she said.

Isom addressed these concerns in his e-mail to CBS Washington.

“(T)he bill strictly prohibits telephone solicitations,” he said, “and the only businesses that can contact you under this bill are ones that you have given prior express consent to (and provided your mobile phone number as your primary contact number).”

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