WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo Counties) introduced legislation to block robocalls today at a press conference. The Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones (ROBOCOP) Act would require telecom companies to offer consumers free optional robocall-blocking technology. The legislation is supported by Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

“After hearing from many constituents about this issue–and experiencing the annoyance of robocalls myself–I am proud to introduce legislation to block robocalls once and for all,” said Speier. “ROBOCOP will put an end to the scourge of robocalls so families can enjoy dinner in peace, people can watch their favorite show without constant interruption, and you won’t ever be left wondering if you actually won a Caribbean cruise.”

“Robocalls have become epidemic but the phone companies have been slow to provide their frustrated customers with relief,” said Tim Marvin, who heads up the End Robocalls campaign for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “This bill will ensure that phone companies take action and provide consumers with the tools they need to stop being harassed by unwanted calls that ring day and night.”

“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.”  

Consumers lose over $350 million to phone scams each year. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 3 million complaints last year alone about robocalls, a clear sign that the Do Not Call list has been unsuccessful at protecting consumers from unwanted calls. Consumers Union estimates that overseas scammers have racked up more than $1.2 billion in fines from violating the Do Not Call list, but so far the FTC has been able to collect less than 9 percent of the penalties. That’s not much of a deterrent.

It is technically possible for telecommunications providers to block or redirect calls with “spoofed” caller ID and to block robocalls, but these technologies are not widely available. The ROBOCOP Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require telecom companies to label and block calls with fraudulent caller ID, and offer consumers optional free robocall-blocking technology.