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Dem chair offers bill to crack down on robocalls

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) on Monday reintroduced a bill cracking down on “abusive” robocall practices, reviving the efforts in the last Congress to protect Americans from an increasing deluge of automated calls. 

Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is reviving the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased authority to combat robocalls. Pallone in a statement pointed to reports that 26.3 billion robocalls were placed in the U.S. in 2018, a 46 percent increase from the year before.

“Americans are fed up with robocalls,” Pallone said in the statement. “It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to. Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are still on the rise.” 

The bill would allow consumers to opt out of robocalls at any point, ban more kinds of robocalls, require all calls to have caller ID information before they can be put through, and lengthen the statute of limitations from one to four years when it comes to punishing those who violate robocall prohibitions. 

A previous version of the bill introduced by Pallone in the last Congress did not move beyond the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill was co-sponsored by 17 Democrats, including Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooOvernight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump officials make new moves to lower drug prices | Romney offers warning to drug execs | ‘Medicare for all’ opens up Dem divide Overnight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women’s March to lobby for ‘Medicare for All’ Women’s March plans ‘Medicare for All’ day of lobbying in DC MORE (D-Calif.), Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTlaib invites Dem chairman on West Bank delegation after his criticism Dem chairman criticizes freshman Tlaib’s planned delegation to West Bank On The Money: Lawmakers look to end shutdowns for good | Dems press Mnuchin on Russia sanctions, debt limit | Trump budget delayed by shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump officials make new moves to lower drug prices | Romney offers warning to drug execs | ‘Medicare for all’ opens up Dem divide Overnight Health Care — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — VA unveils proposal to expand private health care for veterans | House Dems launch probe of ‘skyrocketing’ insulin prices | Fight erupts over late-term abortion bill in Virginia House Dems launch probe of ‘skyrocketing’ insulin prices MORE (D-Co.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHillicon Valley: Trump, Dem talk of ‘smart wall’ thrills tech firms | Stone acknowledges possibility of gag order | Facebook, Twitter purge fake Iranian accounts | Net neutrality fight returns to court | Lyft sues over NYC driver pay law House panel to hold net neutrality hearing House committees to hold joint hearing on T-Mobile-Sprint merger MORE (D-Pa.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiPelosi allies push back on proposed Speaker nominee rule change Congress must protect eye care patients from frightful prescriptions The bipartisan PACT Act would ensure access to life-saving bone marrow transplants for Medicare beneficiaries MORE (D-Calif.) Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and more.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) at the end of 2018 introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which would levy a hefty fine on illegal robocalls and try to prevent them from reaching consumers in the first place. The TRACED Act was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in January. 

The FCC, which plays a central role in both bills, in November of last year urged the nation’s telecommunications providers to crack down on illegal robocalls. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to more than a dozen companies urging them to find more effective methods to deal with “spoofing,” the practice in which robocallers make their numbers as if they’re coming from the same region as the recipient. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers robocall recipients to add their names to a “Do Not Call” registry, which is supposed to allow consumers to opt out of receiving calls, but the FTC receives thousands of complaints a day from people who say they receive calls anyways.

“The robocalls problem is out of control and, without action from Congress, will only get worse,” Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center, said in a statement shared by Pallone’s office.

“This legislation would tackle the growing problem of ‘spoofed’ calls that trick consumers into answering, by ensuring phone companies implement technology to stop these unwanted calls before they reach the consumer, at no additional cost.” 

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