Wyden, Merkley Introduce Robocop Act
Bill would require phone companies to offer free blocking technology
Washington, D.C. – Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to introduce the ROBOCOP (Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones) Act, a bill that would require phone companies to offer free effective tools to block robocalls.
The legislation comes in advance of a hearing in the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee entitled “Abusive Robocalls And How We Can Stop Them.” The National Do Not Call Registry has not been effective in protecting consumers from law-breakers and overseas scammers – resulting in over $350 million lost to phone scams each year.
“I don’t know anyone who enjoys endless telephone spam from telemarketing robots,” Wyden said. “This bill gives consumers the power to stop unwanted robocalls, makes it harder for scammers and fraudsters to reach your phone, and punishes the companies who don’t follow the law.”
“Americans are fed up with being constantly pestered by scams and spam calls,” said Merkley. “Robocalls are out of control, and it’s time for a bill like ours that cracks down on them.”
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House.
The ROBOCOP Act:
- Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require telecom companies to verify that caller ID is accurate.
- Provides an exception for consumers with legitimate need for altered caller ID, such as medical offices and domestic violence shelters.
- Directs the FCC to require telecom companies to offer consumers optional free robocall-blocking technology.
- The technology would not block public safety entities and calls that the consumer consents to receive (e.g., school closings).
- Authorizes the FCC to create a nationwide unblocking system that will ensure consumers are in control of the calls and text messages they receive.
- Gives consumers a private right of legal action against telecom companies that violate this statute.
- Requires the FCC, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to make a public report on whether the new rules have reduced unwanted calls.
The ROBOCOP Act is supported by the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union.
“Like millions of Americans, I’m tired of robocalls and frustrated by the fact that the callers’ identification is often unavailable or faked,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “CFA endorses this legislation to give consumers better tools and stronger legal rights to prevent these fraudulent and abusive sales calls.”
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