The U.S. House of Representatives struck a strong bipartisan blow against robocalls plaguing consumers recetnly 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 Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s support for vital consumer protections found in H.R. 3375 will be essential to stemming the tide of unwanted robocalls.
Robocalls plagued Tennesseans last month, with 124 million calls made to local area codes in June, according to YouMail. Among the top sources of robocalls to the 901 area code were First Premier Bank, Capital One, Comcast, and other major corporations collecting debts. Dozens of organizations, representing consumers across the nation signed a letter to House Members urging their support for strong protections from unwanted robocalls.
Tennessee consumers deserve protection from abusive robocalls. It’s time for action. Senators Alexander and Blackburn should stand with Tennesseans and support this important legislation.
The House bill builds on similar legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year and was supported by Alexander and Blackburn. The House bill takes additional steps to curb abusive robocalling and adopts important new consumer protections that include:
*Requiring the FCC to close loopholes to ensure that automated calls and texts cannot be made without the consumer’s prior consent. The bill addresses the technologies that enable unwanted calls and allows consumers to stop unwanted calls by withdrawing consent.
*Requiring phone companies to provide effective call authentication capability, at no charge to consumers, to better identify and stop robocalling and texting that use 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 adopted by the Senate, these consumer protections 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, they’ll be held accountable for violating the law.”
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.
Andy Spears is the executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action.