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Ohio co-leads call on FTC to implement stronger protections against phone scams

Written on Aug 12, 2022

Hannah News Service 

Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are leading the charge with the Federal Trade Commission FTC) to implement stronger safeguards against phone-related scams including "negative option" opt-outs, click-bait dialing, and business-to business exemptions in a time of common-use phones for work and pleasure. 

Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro co-sponsored a letter to FTC Acting Secretary April Tabor this week signed by 37 other states' attorneys general and were joined by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in a second-letter aimed at telemarketer recordkeeping. 

"The time is ripe for the commission to reassess its rules and implement the proposals set forth herein, which will provide additional tools for state AGs to allow our offices to better serve and protect consumers who depend upon us," they say in the first letter, dated Aug. 2 

The first letter supports FTC's proposal to strengthen the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) with better protections against negative-option agreements, in which unwitting consumers are charged for a service they did seek but which, in the vendor's mind, they also did not refuse. 

Business-to-business telemarketing calls once enjoyed a greater appearance of legitimacy when professionals had separate landline phones for work, the AGs say, citing the growing use of the same smart phone for personal and career-related matters. 

Joined by North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania's second letter to the FTC takes specific aim at telemarketer recordkeeping, which the agency is looking to increase to five years. 

"The FTC has not made substantial changes to the TSR's recordkeeping requirements since the TSR was promulgated in 1995, despite making substantial amendments to the TSR over the last 25 years to address the rise in unwanted calls," say Yost, Shapiro and Stein. 

They note TSR currently does not require telemarketers to keep call-detail records or marketing campaign information on the use of robocalls and outbound and inbound calls. The AGs say that is a problem not only for consumers but also for government investigators. 

"State law enforcement, like federal law enforcement, face the predicament that relevant call detail records and other crucial information are not retained with any regularity, no longer exist or are otherwise not available for law enforcement purposes," they say. 

Yost called for the following records retention, in addition to basic call detail: 

- Identity of the telemarketer who placed or received each call. 

- Seller or charity for which the telemarketing call is placed or received. 

- Goods, service or charitable purpose behind the call. 

- Whether the call is to a consumer or business, utilizes robocalls or is an outbound call. 

- Telemarketing scripts and prerecorded messages, or robocalls, used during the call. 

Yost followed the letters in a separate statement. 

"There is strength in numbers. We have come together to call on the FTC to extend protections for consumers so Americans don't lose hard-earned money to unscrupulous scam artists. We are watching out for you," he said.