Legislative Proposals with the Stated Intent to Stop Illegal Robocalls Continue to Surface

The latest Senate proposal during the lame duck session focuses on increasing the Federal Trade Commission’s oversight over telecom companies.

12/4/2018 8:00 AM

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Legislative Proposals with the Stated Intent to Stop Illegal Robocalls Continue to Surface

Senators serving on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security are advancing legislation that would provide greater enforcement authority over illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission.

Following a hearing with the FTC to discuss illegal robocalls and other priorities for the FTC, U.S. Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the REAL PEACE (Robocall Elimination at Last Protecting Every American Consumer’s Ears) Act, with the goal to end the common carrier exemption that enables some carriers to allow robocalls to reach consumers.

“Telecom companies were originally exempted from FTC oversight because they were regulated by other federal agencies. However, as those federal regulations were rolled back, the exemption remained in place,” according to a news release from Feinstein’s office.

“Technology advances have helped robocallers hide their true identity and location, making it easier for them to relentlessly target and harass Americans,” Feinstein said in the news release. “Our bill will close an FTC loophole so we can finally put illegal robocallers out of business.”

During the Nov. 27 hearing, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said it would be a “significant help” to the commission if the common carrier exemption were eliminated, ACA International previously reported.

According to Section 5(a)(2) of the FTC Act, the commission is authorized to “prevent persons, partnerships, or corporations, except . . . common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce . . . from using unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.” 

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., also said legislation is needed to block the common carrier exemption.

The REAL PEACE Act is not the only recent legislative proposal to stop illegal robocalls.

With the stated intention of targeting robocall scams, U.S. Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., a member of the committee and author of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would require call authentication and blocking adoption, among other changes.

The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, S. 3655, “gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws,” according to a news release.

Last June, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., along with U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., sponsored the “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act,” H.R. 6026," in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit case striking down the FCC’s definition of an automatic telephone dialing system.

While ACA International continues to support legislative and regulatory efforts to enforce and end illegal robocalls, current carrier call blocking and labeling initiatives continue to harm legitimate businesses while doing little to decrease the amount of unlawful calls as outlined in comments to the Federal Communications Commission and Government Affairs Bureau.

The FCC will discuss other federal efforts to stop illegal robocalls at its Dec. 12 meeting, including a proposed order to create a reassigned numbers database. To help members and professionals in the accounts receivable management industry ACA International’s Vice President and Senior Counsel of Federal Advocacy Leah Dempsey provided an in-depth analysis of the proposal for the reassigned numbers database.

Related Content from ACA International:

Legislation Aimed at Mitigating Robocall Scams Lacks Important Protections for Legitimate Calls

FCC’s Action on Reassigned Numbers Database Punts Key Questions to Potential Ruling Stemming from ACA Litigation

Senators Issue Bipartisan Letter on Priorities for FCC Reassigned Numbers Database

Survey Results Show the Impact of Call Blocking and Labeling Technologies

ACA to FCC: Open Lines of Communication for Legitimate Business Calls

ACA International Submits Comments Urging the FCC to Require Call Blocking Mitigation Mechanisms

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