Bipartisan House Bill on Robocalls Advances to Full Energy and Commerce Committee

Industry and some Senate opposition against broader bill could impact its path forward; especially with TRACED Act focusing more on bad actors.

6/25/2019 1:00 PM

Bipartisan House Bill on Robocalls Advances to Full Energy and Commerce Committee

A bipartisan bill with provisions to prevent unwanted robocalls passed the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology after a markup June 25; but ACA International continues to urge Congress to narrow the focus on bad actors.

The House Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 3375, will be considered in an upcoming markup by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee—with some amendments.

The amendments, also approved unanimously, include enforcement against “one ring” calls; ensure the Federal Communications Commission advances illegal robocalls to the U.S. Department of Justice for possible prosecution; and develop a task force on spam calls, according to a subcommittee news release.

The markup of the revised bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Ranking Member U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.—includes a requirement for the FCC to provide clarity on its definition of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS.)

Under the legislation the FCC is required to provide clarity on the ATDS definition within six months of the legislation’s effective date if it is approved by Congress and signed into law, as noted in the memorandum on the markup. Furthermore, it is recognized in the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act that call blocking technologies should be, “provided with transparency and effective redress options for both consumers and callers.”

However, the legislation also addresses several issues with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act including reassigned numbers and includes similar language to the FCC Declaratory Ruling concerning a default opt out for call blocking services. It adds a problematic definition of “called party” that does not align with ACA’s efforts to seek clarity on that issue with the FCC.

The revised bipartisan legislation, with additional co-sponsors U.S. Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, Republican leader of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, and Mike Doyle, R-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee, was introduced following an April legislative hearing on a proposal to stop robocall practices.

Concerns with the proposal presented by ACA were discussed during the April legislative hearing, some of which appear to also be addressed in the new legislation.

However, some concerns remain as the legislation moves forward and the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act also awaits consideration in the House.

House versus Senate Robocall Legislation

When H.R. 3375 advances to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, it could face some opposition not only from industry stakeholders but also the Senate side for not considering components of the more modest TRACED Act, S. 151, Politico reports.

“If the House comes out with something that attracts more detractors and forces us to go into conference, it prolongs what should be, I think, a fairly simple and straightforward process,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., a lead sponsor of the TRACED Act, in the article. “I would like to see them pick up our bill and pass it.”

Leah Dempsey, ACA’s vice president and senior counsel of federal advocacy, told Politico that the TRACED Act and accompanying report approved in May “do a better job as a whole focusing on bad actors.”

The Senate passed the TRACED Act 97-1 with important clarifications included in report language surrounding concerns raised to Congress by ACA.

Related Content from ACA International:

House Subcommittee Discusses ACA Concerns at Legislative Hearing on Robocalls 

TRACED Act Clears Senate

ACA International Challenges Stopping Bad Robocalls Act

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