July 31, 2019

Senators Introduce Bill to Block Support for Illegal Robocallers

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today introduced the Protection from Robocalling Act to combat the dramatic increase in illegal robocalls. The bill would end a telecom exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act that some companies have exploited to enable illegal robocalling.

“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,” Senator Feinstein said. “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.”

“Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive – they are illegal,” Senator Klobuchar said. “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.”

“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,” Senator Blumenthal said. “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. The FTC to be able to hold these companies accountable for this onslaught of unwanted calls.”

Telecom companies were orginally 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. This created a loophole that allows telecom companies that actively facilitate illegal robocalling to escape FTC enforcement. The Protection from Robocalling Act closes that loophole, giving the FTC the authority it needs to investigate telecom companies that knowingly provide VoIP and short duration call services to illegal robocallers.

According to the FTC, fraudulent phone calls, which includes illegal robocalling, scam Americans out of $9.5 billion a year. In April 2018, a record 3.36 billion spam calls were placed in the United States, compared to just 900 million a year prior. That amounts to 112 million calls per day or 1,300 calls per second.

The full text of the legislation can read here.

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