Robo COP Act Would Clean up Phone Spam

In 2004, when I was running for Congress, I was involved in a primary and there were several other primaries, particularly Republican primaries, in North Carolina at the same time, so people in the 5th district were getting a lot of automated, robotic telephone calls. I'm a person who always makes a lot of personal telephone calls in a campaign; it's just something I've done since 1974 when I ran for the school board the first time. I've always made as many personal calls as I could to voters--and that's usually in the thousands--but close to the campaign when I picked up the phone to make calls, people were upset about all the automated telephone calls they were getting.

I decided then that I would introduce a bill to allow people to be put on a do not call registry just as they can be on a do not call registry for telemarketing calls. I've never thought it was right for Congress to exempt itself from a law, and in this case it's not just Congress, it's political calls that are exempt, and I think that's a mistake. People thought when they signed up for no telemarketing calls that it would include these kinds of calls.

I've proposed the Robo COP (Robotic Calls Off Phones) Act to prohibit robotic political calls. The bill is very straightforward. It says that the Federal Trade Commission, within 180 days of the bill being enacted, would revise its rules and allow individuals to be removed from political robotic call lists.

The current rules exclude political calls from the Do Not Call registry. So we're saying that the Federal Trade Commission will take away that exemption for robotic calls. This has no impact on personal political calls being made. A candidate or volunteer could still make those calls, but we want to stop the calls coming in where the person can't tell who's calling and can't speak back.

If a telemarketer calls you and you say, "Don't ever call me again," they can be fined if they call you again. When you get these robo calls you're just stuck. I've talked to people in my district who are getting 20 a day. They're being sent at inappropriate hours--some at eleven at night and one in the morning. Some are very critical of candidates, which is not the most appropriate thing for young children who may answer the phone. They're tying up phone lines, clogging up voicemail machines. Calls that people wanted to get couldn't get through.

This is common sense legislation that people have asked for, and it's hypocritical of members of the Congress to allow their own calls while prohibiting telemarketers.