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House Subcommittee Approves Bill Banning Robocalls, Advancing Popular Measure to Full Committee

Emily McPhie

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WASHINGTON, June 25, 2019 — Following the Federal Communications Commission’s recent order against robocalls, for added measure the House Energy & Commerce Committee Communications Subcommittee voted on Tuesday to approve a legislative measure against robocalls.

The bill, known as the “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act,” will require the FCC to revise rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act within six months to ensure that consumer privacy is being prioritized. It will also be required to implement consumer protections on previously exempted classes of robocalls.

The bill will also extend the statute of limitations by up to four years. That will allow the FCC and law enforcement agencies significantly more time to prosecute illegal robocallers.

Four other measures were unanimously incorporated into the act as amendments.

These amendments would require the FCC to initiate a proceeding to protect consumers from one-ring scams and to submit evidence of certain robocall violations to the U.S. Department of Justice. The FCC would also be required to register all companies engaging in private efforts to trace illegal robocalls and publish a report on carrier participation in these efforts.

Under another amendment, the FCC would be able to allow carriers to not accept calls from carriers that facilitate suspected unlawful robocalls.

The subcommittee also discussed and unanimously voted to create a task force to study the enforcement of the TCPA. The group will determine how budgetary constraints affect TCPA enforcement and identify policies and programs that could increase coordination between federal and state agencies as well as between countries.

The FCC adopted a ruling earlier in June allowing telecommunications providers to block illegal robocalls by default.

However, the order did not require phone service providers to offer call blocking for free.

By contrast, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act explicitly prohibits voice service providers “from making any additionally line item charges to consumer or small business customer subscribers” for both call authentication and unwanted call blocking technologies.

Additionally, the bill requires all carriers to adopt call authentication technologies, which was encouraged but not mandated by the FCC’s order.

The Federal Trade Commission is also working to prevent illegal robocalls.

On Tuesday that agency announced "Operation Call It Quits," a major enforcement initiative targeting operations responsible for telemarketing calls nationwide.

“The FTC’s actions today are another strong step forward to protect consumers from illegal robocalls," said US Telecom Senior Vice President Patrick Halley. "The recognition by the nation’s leading consumer protection agency of US Telecom’s assistance demonstrates our Industry Traceback Group is making a real difference in the fight against illegal robocalls that aggravate and scam consumers.”

(Photo of the House Energy and Commerce Committee markup on Tuesday by Emily McPhie.)

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