EPIC, NCLC Urge FTC to Clarify Scope and Include Non-Monetary Costs in Tech Support Telemarketing Sales Rule

June 24, 2024

On June 17, EPIC and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission in support of its proposed modification to the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), with additional recommendations. The TSR includes many consumer protections such as restrictions on what times of day telemarketers can call, and what disclosures they must make over the phone, but many of these protections only apply if the telemarketer initiates the call to the consumer. In its proposed rulemaking, the FTC acknowledged that many tech support scams are perpetrated by an online ad or other communication that induces the consumer to contact the scammer. As such, it proposed to extend the TSR’s protections to calls initiated by the consumer (inbound to the tech support service).

EPIC and NCLC urged the FTC to clarify that its rule is not limited to the device as a whole (e.g. laptop, smartphone, etc.) but also to individual device components (e.g. battery, cooling fan, etc.) as well as to offers to improve software on the device.

EPIC and NCLC also urged the FTC to clarify that the TSR applies when costs incurred by the consumer are not monetary, for example data collection in excess of what is strictly necessary to the provide the goods or services the consumer is expecting. This is especially important if a consumer is induced to install or upgrade free software that collects data about them to later sell, share, or otherwise disclose that data for commercial purposes.

This rulemaking comes in follow up to the FTC’s August 2022 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which EPIC and NCLC also supported.

EPIC has long advocated for the FTC to use its legal authorities to combat harmful data practices and routinely files comments with the agency. EPIC and NCLC have also jointly filed numerous comments to the Federal Communications Commission on matters involving illegal and unwanted robocalls and other phone-based scams.

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