House passes anti-robocall bill

The House on Wednesday took a major step toward cracking down on illegal robocalls by passing legislation allowing for tougher penalties against the scammers who generate billions of unwanted calls each year.

 

Lawmakers passed the measure, sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Energy: House Democrats offer rival to Green New Deal | Zinke clients include industries he regulated | Oil companies dealt blow in Rhode Island climate lawsuit House Democrats announce climate plan to rival Green New Deal with 2050 goal Hillicon Valley: Equifax to pay up to 0M over data breach | Settlement invites criticism from lawmakers | Microsoft settles bribery case | Election security to take back seat at Mueller testimony MORE (D-N.J.), in a 429-3 vote.

 

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The bill takes aim at illegal spam calls by toughening up the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ability to take action against illegal robocalling operations and requiring all carriers to implement technology to make sure calls are authentic.

 

“We’re proud of the strong support our bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act received this afternoon and look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to produce a bill that the President can sign into law,” the four leading sponsors of the House bill said in a statement.

 

Pallone said on Wednesday before the vote that “the rising tide of unlawful, unwanted robocalls started as a nuisance but now threatens the way consumers view and use their telephones,” saying, “These calls are undermining our entire phone system, and that’s something we all need to take very, very seriously.”

 

The number of robocallers dialing up U.S. consumers is on the rise. Some estimates say there were more than 48 billion robocalls in 2018, up almost 50 percent from the previous year.

 

The legislation requires telephone carriers to implement technology that verifies caller identity without charging customers an extra fee, while extending the FCC’s authority to impose penalties against the entities that send spam calls.

The measure would give the FCC more time to investigate and punish illegal robocallers, require the agency to pare down the list of companies that are allowed to use robocalling services and raise the penalty for illegal robocallers to $10,000 per violation from $1,500.

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act is similar to the Senate’s Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act. The Senate passed its measure 97-1 earlier this year.

A spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee told The Hill there likely will not be a formal conference committee to resolve discrepancies between the two bills. Instead, he said there will be “informal negotiations” during the August recess.

Efforts to pass anti-robocall legislation have stalled for years, but the measures passed in the House and Senate this year increase the odds that Congress could send the White House a bill before 2020.

Updated: 5:24 p.m.

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