Bipartisan House lawmakers announce compromise anti-robocall bill

Bipartisan House lawmakers announce compromise anti-robocall bill
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a compromise bill aimed at thwarting the scourge of robocalls dialing up U.S. consumers, about one month after the Senate adopted its own anti-robocall bill. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneEquifax to pay up to 0 million to feds, states in 2017 data breach settlement Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors MORE (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers 'highly toxic' to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting 'forever chemicals' | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf House passes bill to crack down on toxic 'forever chemicals' Overnight Defense: Woman accusing general of sexual assault willing to testify | Joint Chiefs pick warns against early Afghan withdrawal | Tensions rise after Iran tries to block British tanker MORE (R-Ore.) on Thursday announced the legislation, which differs from the Senate's version on some points but seems to have significant overlap. 

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Pallone and Walden's Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would require phone carriers to implement technology to authenticate whether calls are real or spam, and allow carriers to offer call-blocking services. The legislation specifies the carriers should make sure that legal calls, such as those from doctors offices or creditors, are not blocked, while opening the door for the government to broaden its definition of what constitutes a "robocall."

The bill would also give regulators more time to find scammers and push them to ensure companies are not abusing their ability to dial up consumers when they're allowed to. 

"The bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act offers consumers a way out by ensuring that every call they get is verified," Pallone and Walden said in a joint statement. "Americans should be able to block robocalls in a consistent and transparent way without being charged extra for it."

"Our legislation also gives the FCC and law enforcement the authority to enforce the law and quickly go after scammers," they added.

The bill is set for a markup next week.

The compromise bill comes as lawmakers and regulators have been fielding a huge number of complaints about robocalls, which rang U.S. phones over 4.7 billion times in May alone. 

According to some estimates, 47.8 billion robocalls were placed in the U.S. last year, an increase of 17 billion calls from the year before.

The Senate last month voted 97-1 in favor of an anti-robocall bill that would also promote call authentication and blocking, and help coordinate enforcement to increase prosecution of illegal robocallers. 

The FCC, which plays a central role in both bills, has been urging the nation’s telecommunications providers to crack down on illegal robocalls. The commission will vote next month on a proposal to let phone carriers block certain calls by default.