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  • Writer's pictureBilly Howard

Robocallers Call on Legislators to Make All Scam Robocalls Legal

I am writing to warn Floridians of some potentially disastrous changes to Florida’s Telemarketing Act presently being considered by the Florida Legislature. The proposed changes would make all telemarketing robocalls legal, including those made by scammers. HB 761 (Rep. Fabricio) and SB 1308 (Sen. Yarborough) would do just that.

In 2021, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed bipartisan legislation creating provisions within our Telemarketing Act designed to prevent robodialed telemarketing cold calls (and text messages) to consumers in Florida. These changes held robocallers accountable by creating a civil cause of action against such telemarketers, a measure that has thus far been very effective in reducing these intrusive calls. In 2021, the number of FTC complaints from Floridians regarding unwanted calls was an astounding 388,227 and rising, up almost 100,000 from the previous year. Florida’s Telemarketing Act went into effect July 1, 2021, and in 2022, the FTC reported “only” 211,635 complaints. This is an astounding 45% decline in Floridian complaints compared to the 2021 figures. (FTC, Do Not Call Data Book 2022).

Given that consumer complaints are down 45% and robocalls to Florida consumers have decreased by over 140 million last year as a result of this law, why are law makers even considering changing it? It’s a “SCAM LIKELY” by robocallers. The robocallers appear to have deceived lawmakers when they testified in Tallahassee on March 16, 2023. Their first scam was that consumer-desired communications, namely “fraud alerts” and “appointment reminders” would be hindered by this law. [link] However, these texts or calls are not telemarketing because they aren’t attempting to sell goods and therefore have absolutely nothing to do with Florida’s Telemarketing Act.

The second scam, was for the robocallers to testify that they simply want clarify as to what they are allowed to do. In truth, they know exactly what the law allows, but let's explain it to them anyway. If a company would like to send you telemarketing calls or texts, utilizing robocalls- prerecorded messages or calls made from dialer automatically dialing from a list, they need your written consent. We need special protections because Telemarketers and scammers buy, sell and trade these lists and then dial from them as they target the elderly, those they think have money, or other groups they want to peddle their products to. Telemarketers are free to call you from an automated system if they have your written consent, and without your written consent, a company may pick up the phone and dial you directly, if they would like to solicit your business. This law does not prohibit businesses from communicating with customers, it simply created rules to protect consumers from repeated, and unwanted, robocalls.

Robocallers are now pressuring legislators into changing the definition of autodialer to that which would apply to no autodialers in existence today, seeking to modify it to a 32-year-old definition from a federal statute that the Supreme Court has recently ruled does not apply to autodialers presently used by telemarketers. {link at 18:22} Indeed, the legislative history pertaining to the Florida Telemarketing Act specifically states that our law, that went into effect in 2021, was passed because of the 32-year-old definition of autodialer contained in that federal statute only applies to “obsolete sequential number dialer style of autodialer, versus the predictive dialing technology that most businesses use today.” (The Florida Senate BILL ANALASIS …. p. 3) It is obvious that this is an effort to destroy the important protections provided by the Florida Telemarketing Act. To use an analogy, this situation would be akin to automobile manufacturers seeking to evade regulation by making sure that an automobile was defined only as a horse and buggy!

What makes matters worse is that all the scammers and spammers all buy these lists of numbers, which are easily accessible. Under Florida’s current definition of autodailer, all telemarketing calls from scammers and spammers are illegal. Under the robocalling industry’s proposed definition, scammers and spammers robodialing us would become legal. This is particularly alarming since a list of all Floridians telephone numbers are currently available for less than $100 on the market today and you can call and text from a used laptop computer.

Our current law is straightforward, if you want to call or text en mass using an “automated system” you simply must have written consent to do so. Our Florida law is the gold standard of consumer protection against unwanted calls and is currently being mimicked by 5 other states throughout our country - because it is working and fair.

As can be seen, or law as presently written is an important and effective law that shields the privacy and tranquility of Floridians from robodialed telemarketing harassment via calls and text messages. The time, sanity, and tranquility of Floridians are valuable treasures and are not to be trifled with. Our law is working and I thus urge Florida citizens to call their representatives and tell them to vote “no” on the proposed bill which will “open the floodgates” to consumer harassment by making all telemarketing calls or texts legal.

Billy Howard, The Consumer Protection Firm
Billy Howard, The Consumer Protection Firm

Billy Howard is an attorney specializing in consumer rights and privacy. Billy is often in the national and local media and recognized for his dedication and success in holding robodialers accountable.


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