Bipartisan Bill Aims to Strengthen Enforcement Against Illegal Robocalls

Legislation in U.S. House of Representatives would direct Federal Communications Commission to report evidence of unlawful robocalls to attorney general.

6/20/2019 8:20 AM

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Strengthen Enforcement Against Illegal Robocalls

Bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by U.S. Reps. Donald McEachin, D-Va., and Pete Olson, R-Texas, introduced legislation aimed at strengthening enforcement of current laws targeting illegal robocalls.

The “Locking Up Robocallers Act of 2019” (H.R. 3325) directs the Federal Communications Commission to provide evidence of unlawful robocall violations to the attorney general, according to a news release from McEachin’s office.

ACA International supports tailored legislation that will enforce actions against illegal callers in a time when legitimate calls from businesses in the accounts receivable management industry are increasingly impacted by broad regulatory efforts against robocalls.

“This bill will allow for greater transparency and oversight over the enforcement of robocaller infractions which is desperately needed at a time when robocalls are on the rise,” McEachin said in the news release

Co-sponsors of the legislation include U.S. Reps. Andy Kim, D-N.J., Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., and David Kustoff, R-Tenn.

ACA continues to monitor legislation focused on robocalls, such as S. 151, The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED Act), passed by the U.S. Senate in May and House legislation. The TRACED Act legislation passed with important clarifications included in report language surrounding concerns raised to Congress by ACA.

As noted in the report accompanying S. 151, “Not all robocalls are illegal or unwanted. The majority of companies who use robocalls are legitimate companies. And valid robocalls can benefit consumers. Many important services are carried out via robocalls when institutions and call recipients have established a prior relationship: pharmacies provide updates to consumers that a prescription is ready for pick up; school closing announcements provide families with important and timely information; banks provide customers with fraud alerts, data security breaches, and even calls to convey measures consumers may take to prevent identity theft following a breach; auto manufacturers can warn vehicle owners of urgent safety recalls. These legitimate calls can have life or death consequences for the intended recipient.”

The TRACED Act also expands the FCC's authority to mitigate and enforce rules around illegal robocalls. ACA has supported narrowly focused efforts on penalizing scam callers who are in no way seeking to follow the law, however the association has expressed serious concerns about expanding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which has proven time and again to be overly complex, out of date and abused by plaintiffs’ lawyers.

However, the FCC’s recent Declaratory Ruling that allows voice service providers to block illegal and “unwanted” calls as the default before they reach consumers’ phones fails to address this directive in the Senate’s accompanying report to the TRACED Act.

The ruling, which went into effect immediately, requires providers to give consumers the opportunity to opt-out of the call blocking service.

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