Illinois AG alarmed by 'robocall' bill

Consumer advocates, including the Illinois and Indiana attorneys general, are sounding the alarm over new legislation that would allow companies to use automated dialers to place "robocalls" to consumers' wireless mobile phones and leave recorded messages.

"It would open the floodgates to telemarketers and debt collectors to call at all hours of the day," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan at a news conference Wednesday.

The bill, House Resolution 3035, was introduced last month. It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to allow automated calling to cell phones without a consumer's consent.

Besides being annoying and an invasion of privacy, Madigan said, the change would hurt consumers who pay for wireless service by the minute, the payment method for many prepaid cell phones.

"Those consumers would essentially have to use their minutes, their money, to be inundated with calls from not just debt collectors but any business, even if [the consumer has] not given them express consent to call their phone," said Madigan, adding that the bill is a top priority for debt collectors.

Madigan held a news conference Wednesday morning in conjunction with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who testified Friday against the bill at a House subcommittee meeting in Washington, D.C.

"What we really want is greater protection for consumers at the very time they're proposing a bill that would unleash the floodgates of robocalls to our cell phones," said Zoeller, adding that such machines can dial up to 10,000 numbers per minute.

Proponents have said automated calls could be used for such consumer-friendly features as reminding patients about a doctor appointment, alerting them to a flight delay or notifying them of a suspicion that their credit card has been compromised. Madigan said those calls can still be placed by live people instead of machines, or a consumer can give specific permission to auto-dial their cell phone.

Madigan urged consumers to contact their House representatives to voice objection.