Federal Effort to Stop Robocalls

Schumer on federal legislation to stop unwanted phone calls

Mike Baggerman
August 08, 2017 - 3:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WBEN) - Senator Chuck Schumer discussed robo-calls in his recent trip to Buffalo and said that despite the 2003 creation of the National Do Not Call Registry, it hasn't curbed the spamming phone calls.

"Technology has gotten ahead of the Do Not Call List," Schumer said. "One: People can push a button today and a million calls come in. Second: They're coming from overseas. It's not done in America -our laws are effective in America= but these foreign companies do it and with technology it's much easier for them to do it and less costly."

Schumer announced the Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones Act (also known as ROBOCOP). According to a press release on the bill, the senator wants phone carriers to make robocall-blocking technology available to all consumers and also make those same consumers aware of the service. 

Some phone carriers already offer blocking services. For example, Verizon said their company monitors their networks to detect spikes in suspicious calls, then work with law enforcement to shut down illegal robocallers. AT&T uses a third-party service to stop unwanted phone calls.

While stopping the phone calls are one matter, another battle is stopping the person on the other end of the phone.

"They're asking for money," Schumer said. "And they're not asking crooks for money, they're asking average people. They're not going to use bitcoin, they're using their credit cards. So we're asking the credit card companies to help us go after these people and shut things down."

The ROBOCOP Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and is currently in the subcommittee on communications and technology. No action has been taken yet in the senate other than its introduction on June 7.

A summary of the bill is below:

This bill amends the Communications Act of 1934 to expand the prohibition against knowingly transmitting inaccurate caller identification information to apply to: (1) persons outside the United States if the recipient is within the United States, or (2) text messages.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must prescribe regulations that require providers of telecommunications services or IP-enabled voice services, for no additional charge, to enable technology for: (1) subscribers originating a telephone call to verify the accuracy of their caller identification information; and (2) subscribers receiving a call to use, with the option to disable, technology to determine whether an incoming call is verified as providing caller identification information that accurately identifies the person originating the call and to prevent the subscriber from receiving a call that is not verified. Service providers must also offer a free option for subscribers receiving a call to: (1) identify a call as originating from an automatic telephone dialing system or as using an artificial or prerecorded voice, and (2) prevent themselves from receiving such a call unless it is made by a public safety entity or the subscriber provides prior consent to receive the call.

The FCC must provide an exemption process for subscribers originating a call to demonstrate: (1) their legitimate need to provide misleading or inaccurate information (such as a call to conduct an activity of a domestic violence shelter or medical practice), or (2) that the FCC has exempted a call for law enforcement purposes or because of a court order.

The bill allows private actions to enjoin or recover damages for violations of the FCC's caller identification technology standards. States may bring civil actions for a pattern or practice of a failure to provide such technology or options.

The bill also subjects to civil forfeiture penalties, criminal fines, or state actions persons who intentionally cause call-blocking technology to: (1) incorrectly identify calls as originating from an automatic dialing system or using an artificial or prerecorded voice, or (2) prevent the called party from receiving a call made by a public safety entity or a call to which it has provided its prior consent.

 

LISTEN: Federal Effort to Stop Robocalls with Mike Baggerman
 

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