Policy

Lawmakers Want to Curb Those Pesky Robocalls to Your Phone

Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced legislation to restrict calls

Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., introduced a bill in the Senate last week to curb robocalls. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

You probably receive a few of these types of calls per week.

“Hello,” an automated voice will say, often ostensibly from a number with the same area code as you. “This message is to inform you that ...”

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts want to put an end to many of those.

The Democrats introduced the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act in the House and Senate last week, which would tighten restrictions and enforcement on companies and individuals who make the calls.

“There is nothing more annoying than repeatedly getting unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to,” Pallone said in a statement last week.

“The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will better restrict unauthorized robocalls by providing consumer protection agencies with new tools designed to stop the abusive practices robocallers are employing,” he said.

Americans received roughly 18 billion of such calls in 2017, a sharp increase from previous years. Robocalls net roughly $20 in profit per dollar spent on operations costs.

Some robocalls are placed by real companies who follow procedures from the national Do Not Call Registry, which restricts calls to anyone who registers their phone on the database. But scammers hunting for money or vital personal information also place calls.

“Whether at home or on their mobile phones, consumers should not be subject to intrusive and unsolicited calls,” Markey said in a statement.

The new legislation would grant more authority to the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on malicious robocallers; allow telephone and cellphone customers to revoke consent they had previously given to receive calls; create a database of numbers that have transferred from one phone customer to another that are now off-limits to robocallers; and extend the statute of limitations from one year to four years for anyone who violates robocalling rules.

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