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 PalloneLawmakers discussing potential compromise to revive drug pricing measure House Democrats announce bill to rein in tech algorithms House Democrats ramp up probe of FDA approval of Alzheimer's drug 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 EshooHillicon Valley — Biden signs telecom security bill Biden signs into law bill to secure telecommunications systems against foreign threats Israel says blacklisted NSO Group 'has nothing to do' with government policies MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney MORE (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteDeGette calls for 'lean and mean' health research agency to tackle diabetes The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Democrats ask what went wrong on Election Day The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Political earthquake rocks Virginia; New Jersey too close to call MORE (D-Co.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleTexas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term Midterm gloom grows for Democrats Democrats brace for flood of retirements after Virginia rout MORE (D-Pa.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiOvernight Health Care — Presented by The National Council for Mental Wellbeing — FDA panel advises Moderna booster shot for high-risk people Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll Biden signs bill to strengthen K-12 school cybersecurity 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.