Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) today introduced the ROBOCOP (Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones) Act, a bill that would require phone companies to provide customers with free tools to block robocalls. The National Do Not Call Registry has failed to protect consumers from law-breakers and overseas scammers – resulting in over $350 million lost to phone scams each year. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“The public has been subjected to harassing robocalls for years; it’s time Congress took action and passed ROBOCOP,” Rep. Speier said. “This bicameral bill 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.”
“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,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “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.”
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).
- 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.
- Authorizes the FCC to create a nationwide unblocking system that will ensure consumers are in control of the calls and text messages they receive.
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 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.