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Indiana AG to testify against cell phone bill

November 2, 2011

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he will lobby Congress on Friday against a federal bill he says would strip the telephone privacy rights of residents in his state.

The Republican-backed bill being considered in the U.S. House would allow telemarketers and debt collectors to start dialing residents' cell phones and, if approved, would override Indiana's "Do Not Call" law and lead to a flood of robocalls to people's phones, Zoeller said Wednesday.

He plans to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

"States' attorneys general would be unable to enforce our more strict state laws on 'Do Not Call' and (the proposal) would prohibit us from regulating junk faxes and prerecorded calls or text messages" to cellphones, Zoeller said.

Supporters of the bill say it would update federal law to allow businesses to compete in an environment where cellphones have largely replaced landlines. The proposal makes modest updates to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, they say.

The proposal has few sponsors at this point — eight Republicans and one Democrat in the House — but a coalition of powerful business interests is supporting the measure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Bankers Association, Edison Electric Institute — all powerful Washington lobbies in their own right — and close to a dozen other organizations sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Republican chairman and ranking Democrat supporting the measure.

"Congress should act now to modernize the TCPA's treatment of informational calls to consumers, while preserving its original intent to protect wireless consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls," the coalition wrote in the Sept. 23 letter to Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Zoeller did not say whether any members of Indiana's congressional delegation will support him on this issue, though he said he hopes to approach the lawmakers while in Washington.

In Indiana, Zoeller is fighting on multiple legal fronts to maintain the state's strict "Do Not Call" law and its ban on political robocalls.

A federal judge ruled in September that the state's ban on political robocalls violated a federal statute governing interstate communications. The Indiana Supreme Court is separately considering whether the state rightfully enforced the measure against FreeEats.com.

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