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house Bill H.R. 3375

Should Consumer Protection Agencies Get New Powers to Combat Robocalls?

Argument in favor

Unwanted robocalls are not only annoying, but also a tool that scammers use to trick customers out of their hard-earned money. Empowering the FCC to go after robocallers, requiring telecom companies to block spam calls and penalizing companies that persist in making spam calls to customers are necessary steps to keep Americans from being inundated with spam calls.

Kodiwodi's Opinion
···
07/24/2019
Actually, in my opinion, Robocalls or automated calls should simply be made illegal. Especially, sales and political calls. Those in violation should face extreme fines and loss of their phones Privileges for a month like my mom used to do.
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jimK's Opinion
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07/24/2019
Yes, I have missed important calls because I no longer answer calls with caller ID’s which I don’t recognize. Why? Because, I get 3 or 4 of these robocalls or telemarketing calls a day on each of 2 separate phones lines. Please do what ever is possible to stop this bombardment of our privacy.
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DrCindyBean's Opinion
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07/24/2019
Support this bill - stop the annoying ROBOCALLS!
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Argument opposed

This bill goes too far and will hurt certain industries, such as the financial services sector, which require robocalls as a legitimate business tool. Additionally, given that the FCC has already released robocall rules and that the Senate has passed a similar, less draconian version of this legislation, the House should do the same or allow the FCC to enforce its rules.

JTJ's Opinion
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07/24/2019
No the government has already proven that they are worthless in dealing with robocalls. This needs to be combated by service providers.
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RAN's Opinion
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07/24/2019
I don’t trust this, it’s from a democrat, so it cannot be good for citizens or their privacy.
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Bill's Opinion
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07/24/2019
The government doesn’t need to be involved. It’s a free market. If you don’t like the service then cancel and find a better solution.
Like (7)
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed July 24th, 2019
    Roll Call Vote 429 Yea / 3 Nay
    IntroducedJune 20th, 2019

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What is House Bill H.R. 3375?

This bill — the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act — would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact strong consumer protections for authorized calls and empower the FCC with strong enforcement tools to rein robocallers in. It would also ensure that consumers are able to stop calls they’d previously authorized and require incoming calls to have authentic caller identification information before they’re delivered to customers. A detailed summary of this bill’s various provisions is below: 

Prohibitions on Making Robocalls

In response to a recent D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the FCC’s definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system,” this section of the bill defines a “robocall” as “a call or text message made using equipment that makes a series of calls to stored telephone numbers, included telephone numbers stored on a list, or to telephone numbers produced using a random or sequential number generator; or a call made using an artificial or prerecorded voice.” This definition includes an exception for calls made on equipment requiring substantial human intervention, as demonstrated by the caller, to dial or place a call after a human initiates the series of calls. 

Under this section of the bill, the FCC would be required to revise its rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to: 

  • Protect consumers and their privacy;
  • Ensure that robocalls are only made with prior consent;
  • Ensure that consumers can withdraw consent to receive robocalls;
  • Prevent circumvention or evasion of laws regarding robocalls;
  • Ensure robocalls are keeping records to prove that they have the consent of the people who are receiving their calls; and
  • Help ensure robocalls are following the law.

This section of the bill would also allow consumers to revoke prior express consent for receiving calls at any time and in any reasonable manner. 

Consumer Protections for Exemptions

This section of the bill would require the FCC to implement consumer protections on its exempted classes of robocalls. These would mirror those the FCC voted on to govern calls for student debt collection. For these calls, the consumers protections would require the FCC to specifically delineate: 

  • The classes or categories of parties that may make such calls;
  • The classes or categories of parties that may be called;
  • The purposes for which such calls may be made;
  • The number of calls allowed under the exemption; and
  • The obligation of the calling party to provide consumers with a conspicuous mechanism to stop receiving calls.

Reassigned Number Database and Safe Harbor

This section of the bill would require the FCC to publish a nationwide database of consumer telephone numbers that have been reassigned to other consumers. All telephone service providers would be required to report to the database. 

This section of the bill would also include a safe harbor in the event of errors in the reassigned number database. Provided that the caller can 1) make a number of showings (including evidence that the previous subscriber for the number had given their express consent); 2) prove that they had searched the reassigned database within a reasonable time prior to making the call; and 3) show that the database didn’t show the number’s reassignment, they wouldn’t be subject to penalties for erroneously robocalling a reassigned number.

Statute of Limitations

This section of this bill would extend the statute of limitations for callers violating the prohibitions on autodialed calls, robocalls or spoofing to four years. This section would also allow the FCC to immediately go after bad actors, rather than requiring the agency to wait for a second offense (as is currently the case). 

Annual Report to Congress

The FCC, after consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), would be required to submit annual reports to Congress detailing its progress in stopping robocalls. In these reports, the FCC would also be required to provide recommendations on how to reduce nuisance calls by at least 50% year-over-year.

Deadline for Regulations Relating to Call Authentication

Within a year after this bill’s enactment, the FCC would be required to prescribe consumer protections to require telephone service providers to authenticate calls’ sources. Calls that haven’t been authenticated shouldn’t be completed unless subscribers choose to unblock such calls. Additionally, telephone service providers would be prohibited from charging subscribers for this service as an individual line item charge on their bills.

This section also specifically requires the FCC to recognize and address the burdens and barriers associated with implementing this technology. Special regard is taken with relation to rural parts of the country, where older technologies may increase the difficulty associated with implementing caller ID measurers. To the extent that some carriers, particularly in rural areas, may need additional time to implement caller ID technology, the FCC would be charged with finding alternative methods for authenticating calls while the carriers work to implement caller ID technologies.


AMENDMENTS

During this bill’s consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Technology Subcommittee, four amendments were adopted by voice vote. They are detailed below: 

Ending One-Ring Scams Amendment: Originally introduced in the House by Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) as H.R. 3264: the Ending One-Ring Scams Act of 2019, would require the FCC to protect consumers from one-ring scams. As part of this effort, the agency would be required to work with foreign governments to address these scams and to incentivize carriers to stop calls made to perpetrate these scams. 

Locking Up Robocallers Amendment: Originally introduced in the House by Reps. Don McEachin (D-VA) & Pete Olson (R-TX) as H.R. 3325: Locking Up Robocallers Act of 2019, would require the FCC to submit evidence of certain criminal robocall violations to the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution. It would also require the FCC to publish an annual report disclosing how frequently the FCC submitted such evidence to the DOJ.

Tracing & Catching Illegal Robocallers Amendment: Originally introduced in the House by Reps. G.K Butterfield (D-NC) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) as H.R. 3434: Tracing Back and Catching Unlawful Robocallers Act, would require the FCC to register a consortium of companies engaged in private-led efforts to track back suspected unlawful robocalls’ origins. It would also create a certification process to track whether carriers have participated in private-led efforts to trace back suspected unlawful robocalls’ origins. 

Additionally, this amendment would require the FCC to publish a report on carriers’ participation in private-led efforts to traceback suspected unlawful robocalls’ origins. It’d also allow the FCC to permit some carriers to not accept calls from carriers facilitating suspected unlawful robocalls. 

Spam Calls Task Force Amendment: Originally introduced in the House by Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL)  and Garret Graves (R-LA) as H.R. 721: the Spam Calls Task Force Act of 2019, would require the Attorney General, in consultation with the FCC, to convene an interagency working group to study the enforcement of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). 

Among other things, the task force would be charged with: 

  • Determining how federal law and budgetary constraints inhibit enforcement of the TCPA;
  • Identifying existing and additional policies and programs to increase coordination between federal departments and agencies and the states for enforcing and preventing violations of the TCPA; and 
  • Identifying existing and potential international policies and programs to improve coordination between countries in enforcing the TCPA and similar laws.

Impact

Phone customers; robocall recipients; robocallers; phone companies; consumer protection agencies; and the FCC.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3375

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to stop abusive robocall practices

“Americans are fed up with robocalls.  It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to. Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are still on the rise. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will equip consumer protection agencies with innovative, new tools designed to stop the abusive practices by robocallers and better restrict unauthorized robocalls.”

In a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill, Rep. Pallone wrote: 

“Illegal robocalls affect American life in increasingly harmful ways, from scams to defraud consumers to disrupting our health care system… The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act is a common-sense solution to fix this problem and put our constituents back in charge of their phones… [This bill] will give consumers more power to control the unlawful calls they consistently receive.  It also gives law enforcement and the Federal Communications Commission critical tools, information, and incentives to go after robocallers that break the law.”

After the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed this bill on a unanimous 48-0 vote, Rep. Pallone said:

“Today, the American people are one step closer to reclaiming control of their phones from annoying and illegal robocalls.  I’m proud of the strong support the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act received in Committee today, and thank Ranking Members Walden and Latta and Chairman Doyle for working with me on this legislation to end the robocall epidemic.  This legislation will ensure every call Americans get is verified by Caller ID and that consumers can block calls they don’t want. I look forward to having the full House vote on our bill soon.”

The National Consumer Law Center supports this bill. Its senior policy counsel, Margot Saunders, says:

“The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will apply essential and meaningful consumer protections from unwanted robocalls if the FCC should fail to rein in robocalls from telemarketers and debt collectors, student loan servicers and others.”

ACA International has expressed its preference for the Senate’s robocall bill, the TRACED Act, over this bill. In an interview with Politico, ACA’s vice president and senior counsel of federal advocacy, Leah Dempsey, said the TRACED Act and its accompanying report “do a better job as a whole focusing on bad actors.”

Some financial services groups have expressed opposition to this bill. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), a financial services trade group, has expressed concern that this bill doesn’t allow legitimate callers to seek redress. In a letter to the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, CUNA expressed concern on three issues: 1) that individuals could opt-out of receiving calls without the calling party receiving any notice of the decision, 2) that there’s no mechanism for getting erroneously blocked calls unblocked and 3) that there’s no cost protection language for callers using the notice and complaint process for call-blocking services. In its letter, CUNA concludes:

“CUNA believes that it is imperative for each of these issues to be resolved prior to the enactment of this legislation and ask you to consider the impact this legislation in its current form might have on credit unions, which are not-for profit financial cooperatives that are owned by their members, as they work to comply with the TCPA and their ongoing responsibilities as financial service providers under regulations put forth by other federal agencies… We also encourage the subcommittee to include report language and to make other efforts to establish legislative history that it is not the intent of this legislation to prevent credit unions and legitimate businesses from providing members and customers with critical information regarding their accounts or business relationship.”

Similarly, the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) has expressed its opinion that “[a]ny limitation placed on a financial institution[‘]s ability to keep a customer informed on how to properly manage their account when anything negative or positive were to happen could have significant impact on [customers’] financial wellbeing.” The National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU), which holds a similar view to the CBA, adds that because this bill’s safe harbor provision is overly narrow, it “could present a risk to credit unions’ ability to make legitimate communications to their members.”

This bill passed the Energy and Commerce Committee by a unanimous 48-0 vote with the support of 208 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 155 Democrats and 53 Republicans. If passed by the House, this bill will go to conference committee for reconciliation with the TRACED Act, which the Senate passed in May. Politico reports this bill could face some opposition not only from industry stakeholders, but also from the Senate for not considering components of the TRACED Act (which has more modest provisions than this bill). Sen. Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD), a lead sponsor of the TRACED Act, has expressed this sentiment. The Politico article quotes him

“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. I would like to see them pick up our bill and pass it.”

This bill has the support of a number of organizations, including the AARP, a number of consumer and privacy organizations (including Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), Public Citizen and Public Knowledge) and USTelecom.


Of NoteWhile many businesses, such as package delivery services, home maintenance technicians, banks and medical offices — have legitimate purposes for using robocalls, unwanted robocalls represent a growing challenge for regulators and telecom companies.

In its analysis of a month’s worth of calling data, Hiya, a spam call blocking app, found that each of its app users reported an average of 10 unwanted robocalls. Many more incoming calls, about 60 on average, were from unrecognized numbers or numbers not linked to a person in the recipient’s address book. The company’s chief executive, Alex Algard, also reports that because of the high volume of robocalls people receive, “many people no longer want to pick up the phone at all,” so only about half of all cellphone calls are being answered at all. This means that people may miss important calls from doctors’ offices, banks, schools and other institutions.

Last year, it’s estimated that there were 26.3 to 47.8 billion unwanted calls were placed in the U.S. — a minimum of a 46% increase over the previous year. These calls are extremely profitable: every dollar spent by robocallers returns as much as $20 profit — a 2,000% profit margin.

Though some robocalls are initiated by legitimate companies, robocalls are also used by scammers to steal from consumers, with over 22 million Americans losing a total of $9.5 billion to robocall scams in 2016 alone. The FCC received 52,000 consumer complaints about caller-ID spoofing alone in 2018.

According to one report, as many as 50% of all cellphone calls this year could be spam.

The FCC recently passed a proposal that allows carriers to block robocalls. Under the proposal, cell phone companies would have to allow customers to opt-out of rorobcall blocking. However, the FCC rule allows carriers to charge for such a service; this bill would not allow carriers to charge for this service.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Bill Oxford)

AKA

Stopping Bad Robocalls Act

Official Title

Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, as amended

    Actually, in my opinion, Robocalls or automated calls should simply be made illegal. Especially, sales and political calls. Those in violation should face extreme fines and loss of their phones Privileges for a month like my mom used to do.
    Like (99)
    Follow
    Share
    No the government has already proven that they are worthless in dealing with robocalls. This needs to be combated by service providers.
    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, I have missed important calls because I no longer answer calls with caller ID’s which I don’t recognize. Why? Because, I get 3 or 4 of these robocalls or telemarketing calls a day on each of 2 separate phones lines. Please do what ever is possible to stop this bombardment of our privacy.
    Like (79)
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    Support this bill - stop the annoying ROBOCALLS!
    Like (53)
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    These calls aren’t only annoying but they are predatory & there are plenty of people who are vulnerable to these calls
    Like (47)
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    Possibly the most bipartisan supported bill today. EVERYONE HATES ROBOCALLS.
    Like (26)
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    I get a minimum of 4 robocalls a day. They take my time, my energy and force me to screen every call now. How are corporations, “legitimate” or obvious scams allowed to harm us daily?
    Like (18)
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    Damn right, they should! I’d like to know how many of our elected officials are getting kickbacks from these companies. Then we can, possibly, do something about it. Like vote the a-holes out!
    Like (15)
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    I consider robocalls a violation of privacy unless I have specifically authorized that call, such as for severe weather, natural disaster, or public emergency. Otherwise, robocalls have no business being made at all.
    Like (11)
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    Obviously yes!
    Like (9)
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    I’m not sure I have ever seen an issue on countable that has had such unanimous support the three negative reviews I found all had to do with not voting for anything Democrat’s support or that think government shouldn’t do anything. With such a high level of support to combat robo calls I feel that congress and the senate could at least agree to fix this highly irritating issue.
    Like (9)
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    I don’t trust this, it’s from a democrat, so it cannot be good for citizens or their privacy.
    Like (8)
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    So I can stop blocking them on my phone? No one should have this level of ability to harass consumers. I’m on a national don’t call registry that seems to do nothing to stop these calls from happening. Now when you tell them to take you off the call list, they hang up the phone. These people are predators taking advantage of our most vulnerable citizens and should be stopped.
    Like (7)
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    The government doesn’t need to be involved. It’s a free market. If you don’t like the service then cancel and find a better solution.
    Like (7)
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    I rarely answer my phone because Robocalls are so out of control. If humans want to contact me they have to send me a text.
    Like (6)
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    👿 Darn Those Darn Annoying 👿 “RoboCalls” Now 👿 Unwanted robocalls are not only annoying, but also a tool that scammers use to trick customers out of their hard-earned money. Empowering the FCC to go after RoboCallers, requiring telecom companies to block spam calls and penalizing companies that persist in making spam calls to customers are necessary steps to keep Americans from being inundated with spam calls. SneakyPete..... 👎🏻👎🏻RoboCalls👎🏻👎🏻. 7.24.1p.....
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    I hope this at least get bipartisan support.
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    When it comes to our freedoms I just can not trust the socialist democrat party they are way to lawless and corrupt. WIN Win win 2020
    Like (5)
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    Yes, consumer protections, especially for our most vulnerable populations, should be essential to the duties of Congress. Robocalls are usually a type of scam that prey on seniors, veterans, and the sick, and they should be stopped.
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    These Robocalls are intrusive to the privacy of the Americans that are receiving these calls. Our Senior Citizens are targeted by these calls in order to trick them into giving them their information. We need to broaden the FCC’s power over automated calls. These calls need to be regulated to protect our privacy.
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