North Carolina Attorney General Pushes US Senate to Pass HANGUP Act and Ban Certain Robocalls
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North Carolina Attorney General Pushes US Senate to Pass HANGUP Act and Ban Certain Robocalls

February 11, 2016

State Attorney General Roy Cooper joined 23 other attorneys general to call on the U.S. Senate to pass the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls Act (HANGUP Act), which would protect consumers from unwanted debt collection robocalls made to their cell phones.

The letter is specifically addressed to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and, if passed, the bill would remove a recent amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that allows debt collectors to robocall consumers' mobile phones.

"These calls are intrusive and annoying and can hold phones hostage with their repeated calls," Cooper said in a press release. "Consumers have made it clear they don't want robocalls on their cell phones and Congress needs to listen."

For the most part, calls made using prerecorded messages are already illegal in North Carolina. Nevertheless, the North Carolina Attorney General's Office received more than 9,000 complaints about unwanted calls last year, many of them robocalls, prerecorded calls made using automatic dialers.

In its current form, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act allows previously illegal robocalls to go to mobile phones for the purpose of collecting debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government, including federal student loans. Debt collectors would continue to be able to contact consumers through other means to collect on legitimate debts.

This is one of many actions the North Carolina Attorney General's Office has taken to rid North Carolina consumers of robocalls. In 2015, Cooper and other state attorneys general asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change a rule that allowed robocalls.

In June 2015, the FCC adopted a rule change allowing telecommunication companies to use technology to block robocalls. Last year, Cooper joined 44 additional state attorneys general in a letter urging the five major telephone companies, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and CenturyLink, to offer robocall blocking technology to their customers.

The state is also a part of an ongoing lawsuit against DISH Network over millions of telemarketing calls made on behalf of the satellite TV provider. The outcome of the trial could impact other telemarketers' ability to evade Do Not Call laws by outsourcing call violations to third parties, Cooper said.

Cooper recommends that anyone who receives unwanted robocalls or telemarketing calls hang up and report the calls to his office.