Dem chair offers bill to crack down on robocalls

Dem chair offers bill to crack down on robocalls
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Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse committee launches probe into live event ticket companies Democrats press Trump officials over drop in ObamaCare signups amid website problems Congress extends flood insurance program for 13th time since 2017 MORE (D-N.J.) on Monday reintroduced a bill cracking down on "abusive" robocall practices, reviving the efforts in the last Congress to protect Americans from an increasing deluge of automated calls. 

Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is reviving the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased authority to combat robocalls. Pallone in a statement pointed to reports that 26.3 billion robocalls were placed in the U.S. in 2018, a 46 percent increase from the year before.

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"Americans are fed up with robocalls," Pallone said in the statement. "It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don't know and don't want to talk to. Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are still on the rise." 

The bill would allow consumers to opt out of robocalls at any point, ban more kinds of robocalls, require all calls to have caller ID information before they can be put through and lengthen the statute of limitations from one to four years when it comes to punishing those who violate robocall prohibitions. 

A previous version of the bill introduced by Pallone in the last Congress did not move beyond the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill was co-sponsored by 17 Democrats, including Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDemocrats request info on Google-Ascension partnership Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties | FCC formally approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Silicon Valley lawmakers introduce tough privacy bill | AT&T in M settlement with FTC MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelMaloney wins House Oversight gavel Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteDemocrats request info on Google-Ascension partnership Trump health chief declines to detail ObamaCare replacement plan A dozen House Democrats call on EU ambassador to resign amid Ukraine scandal MORE (D-Co.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Reddit, Google to testify before House panel on tech's legal protections MORE (D-Pa.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure Hillicon Valley: Tech grapples with California 'gig economy' law | FCC to investigate Sprint over millions in subsidies | House bill aims to protect telecom networks | Google wins EU fight over 'right to be forgotten' | 27 nations sign cyber rules pact MORE (D-Calif.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) at the end of 2018 introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which would levy a hefty fine on illegal robocalls and try to prevent them from reaching consumers in the first place. The TRACED Act was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee in January. 

The FCC, which plays a central role in both bills, in November of last year urged the nation’s telecommunications providers to crack down on illegal robocalls. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to more than a dozen companies urging them to find more effective methods to deal with "spoofing," the practice in which robocallers make their numbers appear as if they’re coming from the same region as the recipient. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers robocall recipients the option to add their names to a "Do Not Call" registry, which is supposed to allow consumers to opt out of receiving calls, but the FTC receives thousands of complaints a day from people who say they receive calls anyway.

"The robocalls problem is out of control and, without action from Congress, will only get worse," Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said in a statement shared by Pallone's office.

"This legislation would tackle the growing problem of 'spoofed' calls that trick consumers into answering, by ensuring phone companies implement technology to stop these unwanted calls before they reach the consumer, at no additional cost." 

—Updated at 8:28 p.m.