Senators Introduce Legislation to Fight Illegal Robocalls

April 18, 2018, 4:06 PM HST (Updated April 18, 2018, 4:06 PM)
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On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, introduced the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2018, legislation to help the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prosecute violations of its automated telemarketing call rules, also known as robocalls, by increasing the statute of limitations from one year to three.

“If there is one thing Americans can agree on, it’s that robocalls often cross the line,” said Sen. Schatz. “With this bill, the FCC will have the time and authority it needs to keep abusive robocalls in check.”

“Abusive robocalls aren’t just a nuisance – they are illegal, and the individuals behind them should be punished for breaking the law,” said Sen. Udall. “Last year, more than 37,000 New Mexicans logged complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about unwanted robocalls violating Do Not Call regulations. That is unacceptable, and we must do more to ensure that we are protecting consumers from unsolicited and fraudulent robocallers. This common-sense bill is an important first step.”

“Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive – they are illegal,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “By lengthening the statute of limitations for enforcing robocall violations and making it easier for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to go after scammers, this bill will help crack down on illegal robocalls and those who make them.”

“It’s time we crack down on robocalls and violators once and for all,” said Sen. Markey. “‎We need the FCC to have as much time and authority to investigate robocall and spoofing violations as needed to turn these unwanted and harassing telephonic transgressions into things of the past.”

“Congress must do more to protect consumers from the rapidly increasing number of illegal robocalls, which defraud millions of Americans each year,” said Sen. Cortez Masto. “As Attorney General of Nevada, I saw firsthand how these robocalls harm consumers and target vulnerable seniors through phishing and identify theft scams that can damage their credit and threaten their personal data security and bank accounts. This bill would give the FCC the tools it needs to prosecute scammers to the fullest extent of the law. Hardworking Americans deserve robust, enforceable protections against these unwanted and unlawful robocalls.”

“In rural America, when we want to talk to a friend, order a new piece of equipment, or schedule an appointment, we still pick up the phone. That means non-stop robocalls are not only a nuisance, but a liability for folks across Montana,” said Sen. Tester. “If we stop picking up the phone, folks can’t call for help, parents can’t keep track of their kids, and small businesses suffer. Even worse, the folks who do pick up the phone are often defrauded by these scams. That’s why we need the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act, because this is hardly a victimless crime.”

“Consumers in Michigan and across the country are facing an onslaught of unwanted and abusive robocalls that are almost impossible to avoid,” said Sen. Peters. “This commonsense legislation will improve consumer protections to limit these intrusive automated calls and texts that they never wanted to receive in the first place.”

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“Bothersome robocalls are at an all-time high, invading consumer privacy and threatening vulnerable consumers with financial scams,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “This bill empowers the FCC to deal with this onslaught of illegal calls by making sure they have sufficient time to hold robocall fraudsters accountable and provide much needed relief to consumers.”

“Granite Staters across New Hampshire are impacted by fraudulent and burdensome robocalls every day, subjecting them to potential abuse and scams,” said Sen. Hassan. “We must do more to crack down on bad actors instigating such calls, and the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act is critical to those efforts. As a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I will continue working to strengthen consumer protections for hard-working Granite Staters and Americans and to protect them from unsolicited, potentially dangerous calls and text messages.”

Complaints about unwanted robocalls have rapidly increased in recent years. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 4.5 million robocall complaints, an increase of over a million calls from the year before. The process of identifying and going after robocall violators often takes months, making it difficult to move forward with a case under the current one year statute of limitations.

The Schatz legislation would help regulators fight illegal robocalls by:

  • Lengthening the statute of limitations for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pursuing violations of its robocall rules from one to three years;
  • Lengthening the statute of limitations for the FCC pursuing violations of its rules against callers using fake caller identification information, also known as spoofing, from two years to three; and
  • Allowing the FCC to pursue cases against robocall rule violations without first issuing a citation.

The bill is co-sponsored by Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee members U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash).

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