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Pallone Floor Remarks on Stopping Bad Robocalls Act

Jul 24, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today during consideration of H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act:

I rise in strong support of H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act – bipartisan legislation that I introduced with Ranking Member Walden, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Doyle and Subcommittee Ranking Member Latta.  This legislation advanced out of our Energy and Commerce Committee last week by a unanimous vote of 48 to zero.   

The rising tide of unlawful, unwanted robocalls started as a nuisance but now threatens the way consumers view and use their telephones.  These calls are undermining our entire phone system, and that’s something we all need to take very, very seriously.

Last year, there were an estimated 47 billion robocalls made to Americans.  It’s no wonder that the American people have lost confidence in answering their phones.  The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will help restore that confidence, and that’s important.

Americans use their phones at some of the most important times of their lives.  They use their phones to get help from first responders by calling 9-1-1, to hear important medical test results from their doctor, to connect with or reassure a family member or friend, to learn that school is closed tomorrow, or just to conduct daily business. 

Illegal, unwanted robocalls threaten the foundational ways that we communicate with one another, and that is dangerous.

Each time a consumer chooses not to pick up the phone out of fear that a scam robocall is on the other end of the line, it chips away at our community and public safety.  Too frequently, consumers feel their best option is to not answer their ringing phone, which may lead to them missing an important call.

It is truly unfortunate consumers feel they must take that risk in order to proactively defend themselves against a scam call.  Some studies estimate that nearly half of all calls this year will be scam calls, and these calls are not only harmful to the American people but they are also harmful to businesses.

The Chief Information Security Officer of the Moffitt Cancer Center testified before our Committee that scammers were calling his hospital—disguised as Department of Justice officials—demanding to speak with a physician about his medical license.  Robocalls are dangerous to public health and to people’s privacy. 

We’ve heard similar stories of scammers disguised as the IRS, looking to collect a debt; scammers disguised as local governments—or police departments; and scammers disguised as loved ones, in trouble, looking for help.  We’re even seeing new scams such as the one-ring-scam, where fraudsters try to trick consumers into calling back international numbers in the hopes that the consumers will rack up large charges.

All of these scams are different, and there is no silver bullet to fix them all.  And for that reason, this legislation takes a comprehensive approach to cut off robocalls at many different points.

For example, this bill would implement a nationwide caller authentication system, free for consumers, so they can again trust that the number they see on their caller ID is actually the person calling them.

In that same vein, consumers need more help controlling the calls they have asked not to receive.  Consumers need to be in charge of their own phone numbers, and scammers or telemarketers must have a consumer’s consent before making calls.

Consumers should be able to block illegal and unwanted calls. But with blocking, there needs to be transparency and effective redress so that we ensure the calls people want are getting through.

What’s more, we need to ensure that law enforcement and the Federal Communications Commission have the tools, information, and incentives to go after robocallers that break the law.

This bill takes all those steps and more.  It also includes the text of many important proposals that would help address the onslaught of robocalls consumers face:

•           The Ending One Ring Scams Act,

•           The Tracing Back and Catching Unlawful Robocallers Act,

•           The Locking Up Robocallers Act,

•           The Spam Calls Task Force Act, and

•           The Protecting Patients and Doctors from Unlawful Robocalls Act.

This is a strong and comprehensive bill that puts consumers first.  I want to thank all of my colleagues that have shaped this bill with me.  Mr. Walden, Mr. Doyle, and Mr. Latta of course.  I also want to thank all of the consumer advocacy organizations and the carriers that worked hard to reach a consensus piece of legislation that will take tough and meaningful steps to protect consumers from these annoying and illegal robocalls.

This legislation now has 237 sponsors, and I’m hopeful that it will garner strong, bipartisan support today.  I urge all of my colleagues to put consumers first, and join us in passing the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.