House Dems push for hearing on robocalls

House Dems push for hearing on robocalls
© Greg Nash

Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pushed Republicans on Thursday to call a hearing on the major law governing robocalls, which they called outdated.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (R-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, led the letter. He was joined by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the panel’s tech subcommittee, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the top Democrat on the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee.

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They’re asking the committee’s leadership to hold a hearing to consider rewriting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

“As a committee, we should always put consumers first,” said the lawmakers in the letter. “Our members have sent letters and our staffs have been briefed, but still consumers remain plagued by robocalls.”

“We believe it is time to hold a hearing on how best to protect today’s consumer from unwanted commercial robocalls.”

In the letter, they argued that the law hasn’t kept up with advances in the way people talk on the phone — and the way marketers can reach them through robocalls.

The lawmakers said the committee should weigh whether the law should no longer differentiate between different types of technology, like wireless and land telephones, and if the penalties for unlawful robocalls were high enough.

In the Senate, Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill On The Money: Jobless rate exceeds 20 percent in three states | Senate goes on break without passing small business loan fix | Biden pledges to not raise taxes on those making under 0K Senate leaves for break without passing Paycheck Protection Program fix MORE (R-S.D.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 Markey says EPA administrator should apologize to minorities for coronavirus response MORE (D-Mass.) wrote to wireless trade group CTIA asking for their thoughts on building a list of numbers that should be reassigned, and therefore should not be robocalled.

Last year, the FCC updated its guidance on how it implement the TCPA. Among other actions, it made it clear that it allowed providers to offer technology to block robocalls. The commission established a robocall “strike force” last month, where major technology companies will contribute recommendations related to fighting robocalls.

Unwanted robocalls and spam texts remain a major problem for consumers — with more than 100,00 TCPA complaints filed with the FCC last year, according to the Democrats.