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Strong Anti-Robocall Bill Clears House, Senators Feinstein and Harris Must Back Key Consumer Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives struck a strong bipartisan blow today against robocalls that plague consumers, with a near-unanimous 429-3 vote to pass H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The bill now heads to the Senate; Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Kamala Harris’ support of H.R. 3375 will be essential to stemming the tide of unwanted robocalls.

Robocalls plagued Californians last month, with 445.3 million calls made to local area codes in June, according to YouMail. Among the top sources of robocalls to the 213 area code were Hyundai Finance, Capital One, Wells Fargo, and other major corporations collecting debt. Dozens of organizations representing consumers across the nation signed a letter to House members urging their support for strong protections from unwanted robocalls.

“Robocalls are very problematic for low-income consumers who rely on their phones, with often limited minutes, to stay connected to safety nets and their families, find employment or housing, or to maintain their health and wellbeing,” said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Often times, they are getting calls from the county office or a potential employer and don’t have the luxury not to pick up a call from an unknown source. Reducing the impact of robocalls on all Americans, but especially low-income Americans, should be of urgent concern.”

The House bill builds on similar legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year, and was supported by Senators Feinstein and Harris. The House bill takes additional steps to curb abusive robocalling and adopts important new consumer protections that include:

  • Requiring the FCC to close loopholes to ensure that automated calls and texts cannot be made without the consumer’s prior consent. The bill addresses the technologies that enable unwanted calls and allows consumers to stop unwanted calls by withdrawing consent.
  • Requiring phone companies to provide effective call authentication capability, at no charge to consumers, to better identify and stop robocalling and texting that use deceptively “spoofed” phone numbers.
  • Strengthening FCC powers to impose forfeiture penalties for intentional violations.
  • Requiring creation of a database that robocallers can check to avoid making robocalls and texts to a telephone number that has been reassigned to a different consumer who has not given consent.

“If passed by the Senate, this bill will stop most, if not all, unwanted robocalls,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center. “It will force telemarketers, scammers, and debt collectors who harass us with these unwanted calls to ensure they have our consent for their automated calls. And if robocallers continue to call us when we say stop, the pending legislation will hold them accountable for violating the law.”

H.R. 3375 was introduced jointly by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), chair and ranking member of the Committee’s communications subcommittee.

Last year, Americans received nearly 48 billion robocalls, and as of June 2019, 29 billion were made this year. Many of these calls are made by debt collectors — in June 2019, they accounted for all of the top 20 sources of robocalls.

Robocalls surged after a 2018 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. that set aside a 2015 FCC order on the question of how to interpret the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s ban on autodialed calls to cell phones without the called party’s consent.

 

Western Center contacts:

Jessica Bartholow, jbartholow@wclp.org or (916) 282-5119

Courtney McKinney, cmckinney@wclp.org or (916) 282-5116

 

National Consumer Law Center contacts:

Stephen Rouzer, srouzer@nclc.org or (202) 595-7847

Margot Saunders, msaunders@nclc.org

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For over five decades, the Western Center on Law and Poverty has advocated on behalf of individuals with low incomes in every branch of California government—from the courts to the Legislature. Through the lens of economic and racial justice, we litigate, educate and advocate around health care, housing, and public benefits policies and administration.

 

Since 1969, the nonprofit National Consumer Law Center® (NCLC®) has worked for consumer justice and economic security for low-income and other disadvantaged people, including older adults, in the U.S. through its expertise in policy analysis and advocacy, publications, litigation, expert witness services, and training.