Banks want relief from 'robocall' restrictions

The American Bankers Association (ABA) wants financial institutions to be able to place automated calls to customers' cellphones to alert them of potential fraud. 

The group on Tuesday petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify rules that restrict autodialed and prerecorded "robocalls" to customers' cellphones without prior consent. 

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The bankers association asked the FCC for permission to alert customers of identity theft or security breaches using prerecorded cellphone calls or automated texts. It also wants to use the calls to push information about fraud prevention, as well as notices of money transfers. 

"Manual calls placed in these circumstances would come too late to prevent harm or inconvenience to the customer, and may not even be attempted because of the sheer impracticality of the undertaking," the group said in its filing. 

The group cited government statistics that show more than four in 10 homes only use cellphones. It said the amount of phone calls necessary for fraud protection — which can number more than 300,000 calls per month at one large bank — requires automated, rather than live calls. 

The ABA promised calls would not contain solicitations and they would be kept to about a minute, or in the case of a text, "no more than 160 characters."

The banking group said FCC exemptions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act already on the books likely allow for the calls, but the threat of litigation has discouraged the practice. 

It cited an FCC ruling made earlier this year that allowed for automated texts to confirm delivery of a package from a shipping company. It called for clarification. 

"The ongoing flood of TCPA class action law suits, alleging that automated calls were placed to mobile devices without the recipients’ prior express consent, has severely hampered the willingness and ability of financial institutions to reach consumers’ mobile devices by automated means," the group wrote in its filing.