Lawmakers Are Fed Up With Robocalls And They Want An End ASAP

New laws being deliberated and proposed to curb the robocall problem.Lawmakers want a law to end robocalls now. Image from Gage Skidmore | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The problem of the ballooning cases of robocalls in the United States is so undeniable that legislators are on haste to pass a new law that would potentially put an end to the annoying nuisance of unwanted and spoofed calls that are targeting them, their family, and their constituents.

Fed up the bugging concern over robocalling and other VoIP scams, lawmakers have launched a bipartisan broadside against robocalls. The new legislation introduced by Senator Hohn Thune, R-S.D., would ramp up penalties for violators, put more onus on major telecom and cell service provider to address the problem and do a better job of authenticating calls, and offer ways to block neighborhood “spoofers” and other modus operandi. Neighborhood spoofing happens when scammers are tricking a caller ID into believing that a call is coming from a local area code, inducing validity to the call.

“I think that I’m like everybody else that has cellphones and is constantly, constantly interrupted by these nuisance calls,” Sen. John Thune said in an interview.

Both the House and the Senate are working hard to hasten the passing of the different legislative efforts to stop the notoriety of robocalls in the United States. They recognize that there should be a more heightened crackdown on a problem that grew significantly higher in recent years.

According to Hiya, a Seattle-based software company, a total of 26.3 billion robocalls were received by Americans in 2018, a 46 percent increase from the only 18 billion in 2017. Furthermore, complaints regarding robocalls and call spamming is the most common complaint received by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 2018 alone, the FTC has received more than 3.7 million complaints relating to robocalls and other telecom scams while the FCC received 232,000 complaints on unwanted phone calls that include robocalls and telemarketing calls.

A few months ago, major telecom players in the United States joined forces to curb the robocall problem in the country. AT&T, together with Verizon and Comcast is set to launch a new technology that would allow users to screen and validate the phone calls that they receive. Reportedly, the companies will tap into an authentication technology called SHAKEN/STIR that will authenticate if the phone number on a user’s caller ID is the phone number that originated the call.

Nonetheless, technology has been very friendly to robocallers as there are systems now that allowed them to target thousands of consumers in an hour with minimal effort. Basically, as critics suggest, it will only render the Do Not Call Registry (DNC) somewhat moot. However, FTC said that the list “still works well for the same job it was intended to do,” but that it doesn’t deter “criminals or fraudsters.”

The TRACED Act, as submitted and authored by Sen. Thune, was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last month and as it was back by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, there is a very hopeful chance that it would push the major telecom companies to authenticate calls better, so consumers know where those calls are coming from.

Meanwhile, another set of legislation is being deliberated in the House Energy and Commerce Committee led by Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J. The law that the lawmaker introduced would close the legal loopholes that robocallers exploit and at the same time prompt telecom companies to provide blocking services against call “spoofers” free of charge.

“I hear from my constituents in New Jersey all the time about how fed up they are with robocalls,” Pallone said. “It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to.”

“[The robocall problem] “has gotten so bad that you can watch videos of people getting robocalls while they’re in the middle of making a video complaining about robocalls,” chimed in by Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa.

Nonetheless, the mere existence of robocalls isn’t what legislators are after for. Thune said that his focus is those scam artists who try to get people to send money to fraudulent causes.

“And at the same time, hopefully we’ll get rid of a lot of the annoying and nuisance type calls that everybody gets on their cellphone,” he continued, noting that complaints about those calls “became one of the most [frequent] calls into our office and things you would hear people talking about in conversation.”

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