Federal rules prohibit unsolicited robocalls if a company has failed to obtain written or oral consent from consumers, and that’s a big reason why PayPal raised serious concerns recently when the online payments giant announced proposed changes to its user agreement starting July 1.
Under the new user terms, customers essentially give PayPal permission for them to “receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained.”
The reasons for the calls and texts? PayPal says the communication will mainly entail contacting users about troubleshooting account problems, resolving disputes and collecting debts. But the calls could also be made to advertise offers and promotions, or to conduct user surveys.
PayPal’s new policy raised such a public stir that the company issued a statement Friday, offering a link for those who “choose not to receive autodialed or prerecorded message calls.”
“Some of you may be concerned that the relationship you currently have with PayPal will change and result in you starting to receive unwanted, excessive or expensive calls and text messages from us,” writes Louise Pentland, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary, for PayPal. “We value our relationship with you and have no intention of harassing you.”
In a post on Credit.com, syndicated columnist, book author and self-described consumer advocate Bob Sullivan questioned whether a change in PayPal’s terms legally constitutes consent.
“Given that both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (which created the Do Not Call list) and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ban most robocalling and texting, this seemed in direct opposition to consumer protections granted Americans by Congress,” Sullivan writes.
The national Do Not Call registry was created more than a decade ago to allow consumers to exclude their phone numbers from telemarketing databases. The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says he’s heard too many consumer complaints and he is proposing a new set of rules that would allow phone companies to be more aggressive in blocking unwanted calls. The proposal will be voted on at the FCC’s June 18 meeting.