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eBay, PayPal Under Scrutiny from FCC, New York AG

eBay and PayPal are facing scrutiny by the New York Attorney General’s office after reports surfaced PayPal had given itself permission to “robocall” users for any reason. In addition, the FCC wrote a letter to PayPal voicing its concern that the amendments in its user agreement “may violate federal laws governing the use of autodialed, prerecorded, and artificial voice calls, including text messages.”

A recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the National Consumer Law Center was filing a petition with the FCC asking for a ruling about the provision that gave PayPal permission to robocall or robo-text users for any reason – “from debt collecting to advertisements to opinion polling.” According to the article, the issue came to light when PayPal told a user in response to an inquiry on Facebook that there was no way to opt out of the provision.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the eBay and PayPal agreements “are not is sitting well” with New York law enforcement officials, who contacted the companies’ general counsels voicing concern that the new policy “raises issues” under consumer protection laws. (The policy is actually not a new one, according to PayPal.)

A PayPal spokesperson had told EcommmerceBytes on June 4, 2015, “Our policy is to honor customers’ requests to decline to receive auto-dialed or prerecorded calls,” and the following day it published a blog post clarifying its policy written by Louise Pentland, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Company Secretary, PayPal.

PayPal’s spokesperson had again reached out to us on June 5th, linking to Pentland’s blog post and stating there were three items of special note about the user agreement:

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    • The section around how we contact our customers in the User Agreement is actually not new.

 

  • We will occasionally use technologies that allow us to contact customers more efficiently to help service their accounts.

 

  • You can choose not to be contacted via autodialed or prerecorded messages by contacting PayPal customer support.

Pentland wrote in her blog post, “Our contacts with you are intended to benefit our relationship. For example, we may contact you as part of our fraud prevention efforts to keep your PayPal accounts safer and more secure.” However, the User Agreement gives PayPal permission to provide users’ phone numbers – including mobile numbers – to collection agencies who may also contact users using autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages, noting, “Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.”

But the FCC’s June 11th letter stated, “If PayPal plans to make autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls or text messages to its customers, please be aware that federal law places strict limits on such communications. For more than two decades, federal lawmakers have sought to protect consumers from harassing, intrusive, and unwanted calls and text messages.”

Have you received calls from PayPal or eBay? Tell us about your experience and what you think of the policy.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.