TR Daily Senators Offer Robocall Bill to End FTC Common Carrier Exemption
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Senators Offer Robocall Bill to End FTC Common Carrier Exemption

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) have introduced a bill that would remove the common carrier exemption from the Federal Trade Commission Act, with the aim of giving the FTC the authority to hold telecom service providers accountable for illegal robocalls that travel across their networks.

The proposed Protection from Robocalling Act is brief and does not require any specific actions by the FTC with respect to robocalls. The only legal effect of the bill would be to eliminate language from the FTC Act establishing the common carrier exemption for telecommunications companies.

A “findings” section links the “growing annoyance” of illegal robocalls and spam calls to the effect of the common carrier exemption on the FTC’s enforcement authority over illegal robocalls and spam calls.

Sen. Feinstein said, “Recently, the FTC in conjunction with 25 federal, state and local agencies announced a nationwide crackdown on illegal robocallers responsible for more than 1 billion illegal robocalls. These calls are more than a nuisance. Robocalls allow scam artists to target their victims and can tie up emergency service numbers, putting people’s lives at risk. We must do more than go after the people making the robocalls, we need to stop the phone services that make this illegal behavior possible. Our bill will give the FTC the tools it needs to do exactly that.”

Sen. Klobuchar said, “Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive — they are illegal. Our bill will close a loophole that robocall companies exploit to scam and annoy consumers and enable the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on illegal robocalling schemes.”

Sen. Blumenthal said, “Our bill will close loopholes and empower an FTC crackdown on phone carriers who knowingly ignore billions of illegal and intrusive robocalls on their service lines. Phone service providers must be our first line of defense against the onslaught of robocalls that are often used by scammers and spammers to defraud unsuspecting consumers.”

NTCA told TR Daily it had no comment on the bill. USTelecom and CTIA did not respond to requests for comment. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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