MARKEY, BLUMENTHAL, WYDEN, SCHUMER, BALDWIN, & MERKLEY INTRODUCE ROBOCOP ACT TO REQUIRE PHONE COMPANIES TO OFFER FREE ROBOCALL BLOCKING TECHNOLOGY
Bill introduction comes before Senate hearing on abusive robocalls
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today in advance of a hearing in the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee entitled “Abusive Robocalls And How We Can Stop Them,” U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced 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 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. U.S. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced a companion measure in the House of Representatives.
“Consumers should not be subject to intrusive and unsolicited calls, and should have the tools to block them when they are accosted on their phones. Requiring phone companies to provide consumers with free technology to take their phones back from unwanted robocalls is the right thing to do,” said Markey.
“Households across the country are harangued daily by millions of robocalls – calls that at best are a nuisance, and at worst threaten unsuspecting consumers with financial scams,” said Blumenthal. “The ROBOCOP Act restores power to consumers by requiring phone companies to provide effective technology that blocks unwanted calls at no cost to the consumer.”
“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.”
“Few things annoy Americans more than robocalls, which is why we need the ROBOCOP Act to finally help put an end to these dreaded calls,” said Schumer. “Whether it’s the egregious scamming of seniors out of their hard-earned money or as frustrating as the interrupting of family time, it’s past due for the telecom companies to act and end this practice immediately.”
“The public has been subjected to harassing robocalls for years; it’s time Congress took action and passed ROBOCOP,” Speier said. “This bicameral legislation will put an end to the interruptions that have plagued family mealtimes, movie nights, and those big games. More importantly, it will help cut down on the stress and anxiety triggered by constant annoyance. I know, I experienced it firsthand when I was sick with the flu and tormented by ceaseless sales pitches.”
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.”
“We've heard from thousands of consumers who have been bombarded day and night by unwanted robocalls that invade their privacy, interrupt their sleep, interfere with important calls, and may even be criminal scam operations. The ROBOCOP Act is an important step to further protect consumers from unwanted, abusive, and harmful robocalls. We commend Senator Blumenthal for his leadership on this important issue and look forward to working with him to ensure that these important consumer protections are implemented,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.