Strong Anti-Robocall Bill Clears House, Senators Durbin and Duckworth Must Back Key Consumer Protections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 24, 2019
Woodstock Institute contact: Jenna Severson, firstname.lastname@example.org or (312)368-0310
National Consumer Law Center contacts: Stephen Rouzer, email@example.com or (202) 595-7847; Margot Saunders, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives struck a strong bipartisan blow against robocalls plaguing consumers today with a near-unanimous 429-3 vote to pass H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The bill now heads to the Senate and Senator Dick Durban’s and Senator Tammy Duckworth’s support for vital consumer protections found in H.R. 3375 will be essential to stemming the tide of unwanted robocalls.
Robocalls plagued Illinoisans last month, with 158.5 million calls made to local area codes in June, according to YouMail. Among the top sources of calls to the 312 area code were Comcast, First Premier Bank, Citibank, and other major corporations collecting debts. Dozens of organizations, representing consumers across the nation signed a letter to House Members urging their support for the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.
“People do not like robocalls—it’s that simple. Yet a lack of Congressional oversight and regulation has emboldened Wall Street banks and big corporations to ramp up the frequency of pesky autodialed calls and texts,” said Dory Rand, president of Woodstock Institute. “We need strong, sensible regulation to rein in industry abuses and mandate consumer consent. We support the Stop Bad Robocalls Act and call on Senators Durbin and Duckworth to do the same.”
The House bill builds on similar legislation passed earlier this year by the Senate and supported by Senators Durbin and Duckworth but takes additional steps to curb abusive robocalling and adopts important new consumer protections that include:
- Requiring clear FCC regulations to better ensure that automated calls and texts cannot be made without the consumer’s prior consent. The bill addresses the technologies that enable unwanted calls, allows consumers to stop unwanted calls by withdrawing consent, and closes avenues for robocallers to seek loopholes.
- Requiring phone companies to provide effective call authentication capability, at no charge to consumers, to better identify and stop robocalling and texting that uses deceptively “spoofed” phone numbers;
- Strengthening FCC powers to impose forfeiture penalties for intentional violations; and
- Requiring creation of a database that robocallers can check in order to avoid making robocalls and texts to a telephone number that has been reassigned to a different consumer who has not given consent.
“If passed by the Senate, this bill will stop most, if not all, unwanted robocalls,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “It will force telemarketers, scammers, and debt collectors who harass us with these unwanted calls to ensure they have our consent for their automated calls. And if robocallers continue to call us when we say stop, the pending legislation will hold them accountable for violating the law.”
H.R. 3375 was introduced jointly by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), chair and ranking member of the Committee’s communications subcommittee.
Last year, Americans received nearly 48 billion robocalls, with 29 billion this year already as of this June. Many of these calls are made by debt collectors — in June 2019, they accounted for all of the top 20 sources of robocalls.
Robocalls surged further after a 2018 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. that set aside a 2015 FCC order on the question of how to interpret the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s ban on autodialed calls to cell phones without the called party’s consent.