TR Daily Pallone, Walden Release Robocall Bill, Plan Markup Next Week
Thursday, June 20, 2019

Pallone, Walden Release Robocall Bill, Plan Markup Next Week

The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today released a bill aimed at curbing robocalls by requiring the implementation of call authentication technology, prohibiting carriers from charging for call blocking, and boosting FCC enforcement authority in this area, among other things.

Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) and ranking member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said they hoped to for a subcommittee markup of the bill next week.

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would direct the FCC to adopt within one year rules requiring carriers to implement call authentication technology within six months, and to review those rules every two years to ensure they remain up to date with technology changes.

It also would direct the FCC to consider whether to grant a six-month exemption to small voice providers, rural carriers, and carriers using TDM (time-division multiplexing) technology in their networks, subject to annual reviews of whether exemptions should be modified or extended.

The bill would direct the FCC to take steps to ensure that calls originating from areas served by an exempt provider are not erroneously blocked.

It would prohibit carriers from charging subscribers for the use of call authentication technology or associated call blocking, whether managed by the subscriber or the provider.

The bill would direct the FCC to, within one year, adopt rules ensuring that the robocall-blocking services it recently authorized on an opt-out basis (TR Daily, June 6) are “provided with transparency and effective redress options for both — (i) consumers; and (ii) callers” and “with no additional line item charge to consumers.”

It would direct the FCC within 18 months to adopt rules to streamline information-sharing about individual calls or texts that violate robocalling or call authentication violations.

It also would direct the FCC within six months to adopt rules clarifying what constitutes an automatic telephone dialing system and calls made using an artificial or prerecorded voice under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The bill would direct the FCC to report within six months on the implementation and effectiveness of call authentication technology.

It would direct the FCC within one year to report to Congress on the status of the agency’s effort to stand up a reassigned number database that robocallers could use to make sure they are not calling subscribers who have been assigned a number previously assigned to someone who had given consent for the robocalls.

It also would direct the FCC to report annually on robocall complaints and enforcement actions. The reports would also include proposals for reducing the number of violations and “[a]n analysis of the contribution by providers of interconnected VoIP service and non-interconnected VoIP service that discount high-volume, unlawful, short-duration calls to the total number of calls made in violation of such subsections, and recommendations on how to address such contribution in order to decrease the total number of calls made in violation of such subsections.”

The bill would direct the FCC within 18 months to study and report to Congress whether VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service providers should be required to provide contact information to the FCC and retain records on each call transmitted sufficient to trace the call.

It would authorize the FCC to seek a forfeiture penalty for robocall violations without first seeking issuing a citation.

It also would establish a four-year statute of limitations for robocall violations in the case of intentional violations and a three-year statute of limitations in the case of nonintentional violations.

The bill would also change the statute of limitations for illegal caller ID spoofing from two years to four years

It would clarify that for the purposes of the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), “called party” means the subscriber or customary user of the phone number to which the call was placed, thus distinguishing it from the party who happens to answer the phone.

In a joint statement, Chairman Pallone and Rep. Walden said, “The bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act offers consumers a way out by ensuring that every call they get is verified. Americans should be able to block robocalls in a consistent and transparent way without being charged extra for it. Our legislation also gives the FCC and law enforcement the authority to enforce the law and quickly go after scammers. We look forward to moving this bill through the Communications and Technology Subcommittee next week.”

Industry and consumer advocates welcomed the bill.

In a statement, NCTA said, “Robocalls have become a scourge on our daily lives causing many Americans to simply stop answering their phones. This is why we welcome the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden to introduce the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. This legislation along with efforts by the FCC to combat robocalls are critical to protecting consumers from this nuisance.”

USTelecom President and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Spalter said, “Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member Walden and the bipartisan members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee delivered a loud and clear message to illegal robocallers today: ‘enough.’ These legislative proposals add to the growing momentum and broad partnership among lawmakers, regulators, industry and innovators of all stripes who are closely collaborating to end the illegal robocall plague scamming and spoofing consumers.”

Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumer Reports, said, “Robocalls are a pervasive, persistent problem, and consumers are desperate for relief from these unsolicited messages. These calls don’t just irritate consumers — they interfere with the phone service for which we pay dearly, and they subject people to scams. By one estimate, consumers lost $10.5 billion to phone scams in one single year.”

She added, “We commend Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden for introducing the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which will help ensure that all consumers have effective protections from deceptively spoofed calls, including calls from scammers. The bill will also help get rid of loopholes in order to stop robocallers from skirting the law. We look forward to working with legislators to ensure that consumers get the protections they deserve.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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