Congressional committee dials up anti-robocall legislation

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More than half of the 48 billion robocalls placed to Americans in 2018 were classified as scams or telemarketing pitches. - CHRIS THOMAS
  • Chris Thomas
  • More than half of the 48 billion robocalls placed to Americans in 2018 were classified as scams or telemarketing pitches.

Those annoying robocalls that drive people crazy are the targets of a bill before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on Wednesday.

The "Stopping Bad Robocalls Act" would require the Federal Communications Commission to adopt consumer-protection rules, forcing telecom companies to install technology that would identify and block more of the calls.



Maureen Mahoney, a Consumer Reports policy analyst, says many come from scammers who manipulate caller ID displays to make it look like their call is coming from a local number.

"Many of these calls have spoofed caller ID, and that makes it trickier to block these calls," she says. "So, by requiring technology that would authenticate caller ID, phone companies will be better enabled to automatically block calls with confidence."



The bill, which has bipartisan support, also would make it easier to pursue violators. According to the company You Mail, which tracks spam calls, Americans received almost 48 billion robocalls in 2018, an increase of more than 56 percent over the year before.

Mahoney says the Do-Not-Call Registry has failed to protect consumers, especially from calls coming from outside the United States or from debt collectors or political campaigns. She said some phone companies already are offering to help their customers with this issue.

"Some phone companies have started to implement free tools that will help identify and block robocalls before they reach the consumer," she says. "So, I would reach out to your phone company and ask them what tools they offer for free that are advanced and effective in stopping these calls."

The legislation also would prevent phone companies from charging customers for the anti-robocall technology.

The text of HR 3375 is online at energycommerce.house.gov.

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