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 reaches deal on continuing resolution, vote expected Thursday Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns 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: Public's view of drug companies sinks to record low in poll | NYC declares end to measles outbreak | Health advocates fear Planned Parenthood funding loss could worsen STD crisis Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Planned Parenthood ousts its president | Harris releases drug pricing plan | House Dem drug plan delayed until after recess Democratic chair: Medicare negotiating drug prices not moving before August MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse chairman reaches deal on classified briefing with Trump's Afghanistan negotiator Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House chairman subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan negotiator MORE (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteLawmakers criticize EPA draft rule for curbing rights to challenge pollution permits Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research MORE (D-Co.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House panel advances anti-robocall bill House Democrats seek bipartisan working group on net neutrality MORE (D-Pa.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Lobbying World House bill would make World Cup funds contingent on equal pay 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.