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Consumer groups praise overwhelming House passage of strong anti-robocalls bill

Joint Press Release

Consumer Reports  *  National Consumer Law Center

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives today struck a strong, bipartisan blow against robocalls that plague consumers with a vote of 429-3 to pass H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.

 

The bill takes major steps to curb abusive robocalling by adopting important new consumer protections, including:

 

  • Requiring clear FCC regulations to better ensure that automated calls and texts cannot be made without the consumer’s prior consent, by directing it to clarify coverage of all technologies that enable them, to clarify consumers’ right to withdraw consent, and to close off avenues for robocallers to evade these restrictions.

 

  • Requiring phone companies to provide effective call authentication capability, at no charge to consumers, to better identify and stop robocalling and texting that uses deceptively “spoofed” phone numbers

 

  • Strengthening FCC powers to impose forfeiture penalties for intentional violations

 

  • Requiring creation of a database that robocallers can check in order to avoid making robocalls and texts to a telephone number that has been reassigned to a different consumer who has not given consent.

 

H.R. 3375 was introduced jointly by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), chair and ranking member of the Committee’s communications subcommittee. It builds on legislation passed earlier this year by the Senate.   More than 80 organizations representing consumers across the U.S. signed a letter to House Members urging their support.

 

“The House is sending a strong message that it is time to stop the abuse from robocalls,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumer Reports. “This bill would go a long way toward protecting people from the daily harassment of unwanted robocalls. These calls aren’t just annoying. Shady businesses and individuals are using them to steal your money and your personal information. With today’s House vote, we now look forward to seeing the strongest possible bill enacted into law.”

 

“This bill will stop most, if not all, unwanted robocalls,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “It will force telemarketers, scammers, and debt collectors who harass us with these unwanted calls to ensure they have our consent for their automated calls. And if robocallers continue to call us when we say stop, the pending legislation will hold them accountable for violating the law. It’s now time to re-engage with the Senate so we can get a strong final bill sent to the President.”

 

Last year, Americans received nearly 48 billion robocalls, according to YouMail, a private robocall blocking service, with 29 billion this year already as of this June. Many of these calls are made by debt collectors — in June 2019, they accounted for all of the top 20 sources of robocalls. But scam callers are an increasing problem. By one estimate, consumers lost $10.5 billion to phone scams in one single year.

 

Robocalls surged further after a 2018 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. that set aside a 2015 FCC order on the question of how to interpret the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s ban on autodialed calls to cell phones without the called party’s consent.

 

Consumer Reports’ recent cover story Mad About Robocalls? offers an in-depth look at how the robocalls problem has reached an epidemic level. It features a nationally representative CR survey that found 70 percent of U.S. consumers have stopped answering their phones if they don’t recognize the number, or if the caller’s number is anonymous. Sixty-two percent said they let most calls go to voicemail, and 53 percent said they have educated family members about potential threats and scams from robocalls and how to protect themselves.

 

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CONTACTS:

Consumer Reports: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org or (202) 462-6262

National Consumer Law Center: Jan Kruse, jkruse@nclc.org or (617) 542-8010

 

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For more than 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

 

Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center® (NCLC®) has worked for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people, including older adults, in the U.S. through its expertise in policy analysis and advocacy, publications, litigation, expert witness services, and training.