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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch 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 EshooOvernight Health Care: Health insurers urge Supreme Court to take ObamaCare case | Lawmakers press Trump officials to change marijuana rules | Bloomberg vows to ban flavored e-cigs if elected Lawmakers press Trump officials to change federal marijuana rules Overnight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelPompeo under pressure over threats to Yovanovitch Engel demands State Department documents regarding 'threats' to Yovanovitch security after release of Parnas documents Overnight Defense: Trump says it 'doesn't really matter' if Soleimani was plotting imminent attack | Pompeo won't testify before House panel on Iran | Investigation finds Pensacola base shooting was terrorism MORE (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers Lawmakers express alarm over rise in cocaine overdose deaths Overnight Health Care: Trump knocks 'mini Mike Bloomberg' over health care | Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads | Oklahoma sues opioid distributors MORE (D-Co.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE (D-Pa.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiBipartisan food allergy legislation gains ground in Congress, but the fight has only just begun Democrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Blood cancer patients deserve equal access to the cure 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.