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Robocall legislation nearing the finish line

Nick, one of the CUB outreach team’s summer interns, shows his dislike for robocall scams just before the House overwhelmingly passed legislation designed to combat the nuisance calls.

Big thanks to thousands of members of the CUB Action Network who have sent messages urging their elected officials to take action against robocalls. The House of Representatives on July 24 overwhelmingly passed (429-3) the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act to crack down on robocall scams.

That action followed the Senate’s passing of an anti-robocalls bill, the TRACED Act, 97-1, in May.

Now, the House and the Senate have to reconcile both bills, and send a measure to President Trump. Be prepared to take action in the fall to get the strongest possible consumer protections past the finish line.

CUB has said that this is one of the biggest consumer issues of 2019. “Illinois consumers—and CUB staffers—are exasperated by bothersome robocalls,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in January, when the watchdog group released its first-ever guide to help consumers combat robocalls.

YouMail, the telecom services firm, estimates there have been 29 billion robocalls so far this year. That works out to nearly 90 calls per person in the U.S., YouMail CEO Alex Quilici told Consumer Reports. Call-blocking service Truecaller estimates that phone scams bilked consumers out of $10.5 billion in 2018.

Hopefully, Washington is now making a serious move to deal with this problem. “This bill would go a long way toward protecting people from the daily harassment of unwanted robocalls,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumer Reports. “We now look forward to seeing the strongest possible bill enacted into law.”

Highlights of the bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act:

  • Phone carriers would be required to give their customers free robocall-blocking and call-authentication services. (Call-authentication technology would help stop “spoofed” robocalls, when scammers use your area code or prefix to try to trick you into thinking somebody local is calling.)
  • The House bill proposes extending the statute of limitations for the enforcement of intentional robocalling violations to four years. (The Senate’s TRACED Act proposes extending it to three.)
  • The Federal Communications Commission would be required to submit annual reports to Congress on its  enforcement actions against illegal robocalls. It also would be required to create and maintain a database of disconnected or reassigned numbers. Robocallers would have to check that database to make sure the numbers they use haven’t been disconnected or reassigned.