Senators Introduce Legislation for Unwanted Robocall Protection

May 7, 2019, 8:32 AM HST (Updated May 7, 2019, 8:32 AM)
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Last week, Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), along with U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), introduced the Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act, according to a May 6, 2019, press release from Sen. Hirono’s office.

The bill would help end illegal robocalls in America.

“Robocalls have become an epidemic in this country, with Americans receiving an estimated 48 million robocalls last year alone,” Sen. Hirono said. “A recent study found people receive an average of 10 unwanted robocalls per day. These calls are not only an annoyance, but they decrease the productivity of American workers and prey on seniors and other vulnerable populations, who may fall victim to tax and other scams. The Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act is a step in the right direction. By making it easier for individuals to sue those behind violations of the Do-Not-Call Registry and increasing the fines imposed for such violations, this bill will make the registry live up to its name and end unwanted robocalls once and for all.”

“Like millions of Americans, I’ve experienced the nuisance of constant robocalls,” said Sen. Durbin. “This is out of control and it’s up to Congress to do something about it. Consumers don’t deserve to be preyed upon by scammers that are just trying to undermine someone’s personal privacy and financial information. It’s time to put an end to this.”

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“The TCPA empowers consumers to say no to unwanted telemarketing calls and texts, a right that must be protected and expanded,” Sen. Markey said. “This legislation will give consumers stronger recourse for violations of our bedrock telemarketing laws—welcome relief for the millions of Americans receiving unwanted calls and texts each year.”

“Fraudulent robocall scams are not just annoying, they also take billions of dollars from vulnerable Americans, like seniors, immigrant communities, and those with disabilities,” Sen. Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m proud to support Sen. Durbin’s legislation that will empower consumers and give Illinoisans the resources they need to go after abusive robocallers.”

“Robocalls aren’t just annoying—Americans actually lose billions of dollars a year to robocall scams,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “Our new legislation will finally give consumers the ability to fight back by allowing them to petition for damages after receiving just one illegal robocall without their consent. It’s time to finally hang up on robocalls.”

“The onslaught of unwanted and abusive robocalls is on the rise, but populations that often bear the brunt of these scams, like older Americans, can face barriers in seeking recourse,” Sen. Smith said. “This bill improves consumers’ ability to fight robocalls, empowering everyone to take steps to deter and defend against the abusive practices of fraudulent telemarketers.”

The Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act would improve the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 and the Do-Not-Call Registry by giving landline and cellular consumers alike the ability to petition for statutory damages for all unsolicited telemarketing calls immediately after the first violation of the TCPA.

Despite repeated legislative efforts and regulatory enforcement actions, robocalls continue to plague Americans at alarming rates. In 2016, 22 million Americans lost more than $9.5 billion to robocall scams that primarily targeted senior citizens, immigrants, and people living with disabilities.

Full text of the bill is available here.

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