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Hearing on "Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls”

Date: 
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - 10:00am
Location: 
2123 Rayburn House Office Building

The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a legislative hearing on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at 10 a.m. in the John D. Dingell Room, 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled, “Legislating to Stop the Onslaught of Annoying Robocalls.”

 

H.R. 946, the "Stopping Bad Robocalls Act," Rep. Pallone (D-NJ), reintroduced H.R. 946, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act on February 4, 2019, after originally introducing the bill in the 115th Congress. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would:

(1) Update the TCPA’s autodialer definition to ensure robocallers cannot evade the protections in the law to make robocalls without consumers’ consent. The bill also amends the law to reinforce that text messages are covered as well as calls;

(2) Require additional consumer protections to limit the calls consumers receive because of certain FCC created exemptions to the TCPA;

(3) Require the FCC to create a reassigned number database so consumers do not receive robocalls intended for the person that was previously assigned the consumer’s phone number;

(4) Extend the statute of limitations for the FCC to take action against robocallers and illegal spoofers to up to four years and allow the FCC to immediately go after bad actors, rather than requiring the FCC to wait for a second offense;

(5) Require the FCC, after consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, to submit annual reports to Congress detailing the FCC’s progress in stopping robocalls, including recommendations for how to reduce nuisance calls by at least 50 percent year-over-year; and

(6) Require that, within a year, the FCC prescribe consumer protections to require telephone service providers to authenticate the source of calls, so they don’t include misleading caller ID information with some exceptions. Calls that have not been authenticated would not be completed unless subscribers chose to unblock such calls, and telephone service providers could not charge subscribers extra just for this service.

 

H.R. 1421, the "Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act of 2019," Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 1421, the “Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone calls (HANGUP) Act of 2019” or the “HANGUP Act” on February 28, 2019, after first introducing the legislation in the 114th Congress. The HANGUP Act would rescind Section 301 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 exempting calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” from the TCPA so that these debt collectors did not have to get consent from consumers before calling. Notably, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently found the exemption created by Section 301 to be unconstitutional.

 

H.R. 2355, the "Regulatory Oversight Barring Obnoxious (ROBO) Calls and Texts Act," Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 2355, the “Regulatory Oversight Barring Obnoxious (ROBO) Calls and Texts Act” on April 25, 2019. The ROBO Calls and Texts Act would require the FCC to establish a Robocalls Division within the Enforcement Bureau that specifically addresses the issue of robocalls. That division would be charged with: (1) ensuring consumer protection and compliance with federal laws relating to public safety and robocalls; (2) serving as a line of communication between the federal government and the communications industry to coordinate efforts to combat robocalls; (3) actively managing robocall consumer complaints; and (4) serving as a line of communication between the FCC and other related federal agencies regarding the issue of robocalls, among other things.


The bill would also require the FCC to implement regulations to compel carriers to adopt technological standards to prevent robocalls and periodically update those regulations. Under the bill, a portion of the FCC’s staff would also be dedicated to researching ways to address robocalls. Finally, the bill requires the FCC to develop general educational resources to inform consumers of the risks associated with robocalls.

 

H.R. 2298, the "Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones (ROBOCOP) Act," Rep. Speier (D-CA) introduced H.R. 2298, the “Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones (ROBOCOP) Act” or the “ROBOCOP Act” on April 12, 2019, after first introducing the legislation in the 114th Congress. The ROBOCOP Act requires carriers, for no additional charge, to enable technology that: (1) verifies the accuracy of caller ID information; (2) generally blocks calls or text messages that do not have verified caller ID information; and (3) blocks calls or text messages that originate, or probably originate, from an autodialer, unless the consumer has consented or the call is coming from a public safety entity.

The bill would also provide for an appeal process whereby the FCC could address instances where calls or texts messages are misidentified as originating from auto dialers, among other things. The bill further gives the FCC the authority to “whitelist” some callers if they offer an “essential service.”

The ROBOCOP Act establishes a private right of action to enjoin or recover damages for violations of the new call blocking requirements in the bill. States may also bring civil actions for a pattern or practice of a failure to provide the call blocking required by the bill. The bill further makes it unlawful for persons to intentionally interfere with call blocking technology with the intent to cause harm. Finally, the bill requires the FCC to produce several studies regarding how to further the aims of the legislation.

 

H.R. 721, the "Spam Calls Task Force Act of 2019," Rep. Crist (D-FL) introduced H.R. 721, the “Spam Calls Task Force Act of 2019” on January 23, 2019. The Spam Calls Task Force Act requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the FCC, to convene an interagency working group to study the enforcement of the TCPA. Among other things, the task force shall: (1) determine how federal law and budgetary constraints inhibit enforcement of the TCPA; (2) identify existing and additional policies and programs to increase coordinating between to federal department and agencies and the states for enforcing and preventing violations of the TCPA; and (3) identify existing and potential international policies and programs to improve coordination between countries in enforcing the TCPA and similar laws. The bill also requires the task force to consider how several policies could improve the enforcement of the TCPA.

 

Discussion Draft of H.R. _______, the "Support Tools to Obliterate Pesky (STOP) Robocalls Act," Rep. Latta (R-OH) has released a discussion draft of a bill, the “Support Tools to Obliterate Pesky (STOP) Robocalls Act”. The STOP Robocalls Act would: (1) allow carriers to provide robocall blocking technology to consumers on an opt-out basis; (2) require the FCC to issue rules for interconnected voice over internet protocol (VoIP) providers or one way interconnected VoIP providers to require greater call record retention obligations, among other things; and (3) require the FCC to issue rules to streamline the ways in which private entities share information relating to robocalling or spoofing with the FCC.

 

H.R. 1575, the "Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2019," Rep. Van Drew (D-NJ) introduced H.R. 1575, the “Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2019” on March 6, 2019. The Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act would: (1) increase the statute of limitations for illegal spoofing to three years; (2) increase the time the FCC has to impose a forfeiture, after it issues a notice of apparent liability, to three years for illegal robocalls; and (3) allows the FCC to impose a forfeiture against illegal robocallers without first issuing a citation.

 

Live Stream

 

Key Documents

Memorandum from Chairman Pallone to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

Opening Statement of Chairman Pallone as prepared for delivery

Opening Statement of Subcommittee Chairman Doyle as prepared for delivery 

 

Witnesses

Aaron Foss
Founder
Nomorobo

Testimony

 

Dave Summitt
Chief Information Security Officer
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
Fellow for the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology

Testimony

 

Margot Saunders
Senior Counsel
National Consumer Law Center

Testimony

 

Patrick Halley
Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs
USTelecom – The Broadband Association

Testimony