Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) was joined by 14 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives last week to introduce H.R. 2298, the ROBOCOP (Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones) Act. This bicameral legislation would finally require telephone companies to offer free robocall blocking services to all their customers. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has introduced the companion bill in the U.S. Senate.
An estimated 22.1 million Americans lost $9.5 billion to Robocall scams in 2016, according to a 2017 study. This epidemic of telephonic harassment skyrocketed in 2018, with the number of robocalls made to Americans exceeding 16.3 billion in the first five months of that year. And thus far efforts like the Do Not Call Registry have had little to no impact, particularly when it comes to scams and call centers located outside of the United States.
“Seldom a day goes by that I am not barraged with calls at home and on my cell phone from automated call services and scam artists. I recently received a call from a con artist claiming to work for the Social Security Administration claiming that there was a problem with my status. These schemes rob Americans, often the most vulnerable among us, of billions of dollars every year,” Rep. Speier said. “It’s clear that the Do Not Call Registry has not solved this problem and Congress can no longer wait for the FCC or telephone companies to take the necessary action. I urge the House and Senate to swiftly take up and pass the ROBOCOP Act.”
“The increase in disruptive and harassing robocalls is out of control. Consumers are demanding that we take action, which is why I’m proud to join Congresswoman Speier in introducing the ROBOCOP Act to help cut down on this vicious onslaught of scam and spam messages by requiring phone companies provide robocall blocking tech and verify that caller IDs are accurate” Sen. Blumenthal said.
The ROBOCOP Act would:
- Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require telecom companies to verify that caller ID is accurate.
- Provide an exception for consumers with a legitimate need for altered caller ID, such as medical offices and domestic violence shelters.
- Direct 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., notifications from school districts about closings and messages from doctor’s offices and law enforcement alerts).
- Give consumers a private right of legal action against telecom companies that violate this statute.
- Require the FCC, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to provide a public report every four years to help determine whether the new rules have successfully reduced unwanted calls.
- Authorize the FCC to create a nationwide unblocking system that will ensure consumers are in control of the calls and text messages they receive.
Rep. Speier’s bill has 14 cosponsors and has the support of Consumer Reports.
“The ROBOCOP Act would provide sorely-needed relief from unwanted robocalls, a top consumer complaint. This legislation would address ‘spoofed’ calls that scammers so often use to evade call-blocking services and enforcement efforts, as well as the growing problem of unwanted text messages,” said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst, Consumer Reports. “Consumer Reports commends Congresswoman Speier and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership in addressing this issue and urges Congress to take this measure up quickly.”
The cosponsors of Rep. Speier’s bill are: Representatives Steven Cohen (D-TN), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Raúl Grijalva (D-ZA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).
Click here for a copy of the bill text.