Less than a week after it was introduced, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology yesterday unanimously approved the overhauled Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.
The bill, H.R. 3375, now goes to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee for a vote. The bill was introduced last week by Rep. Frank Pallone [D-N.J.] and Rep. Greg Walden [R-Ore.], the chairman and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In approving the proposed legislation, the subcommittee added four amendments, including H.R. 3325, known as the Locking Up Robocallers Act of 2019, which was introduced last week by Rep. Donald McEachin [D-Va.]. The bill, which would require the FCC to notify the Attorney General when it obtains evidence of willful or repeated robocall violations, also has bipartisan support. Also added to the bill were The Tracing Back and Catching Unlawful Robocallers Act, H.R. 3434, and the Spam Calls Task Force Act of 2019, H.R. 721.
Of note to the credit and collections industry is a proposed amendment that was offered and subsequently withdrawn from Rep. Anna Eshoo [D-Calif.], which seeks to repeal the exemption granted to debt collectors who are collecting debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government. That amendment is likely to be added back into the bill when it goes before the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to a published report.
The revised Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would:
- Require that phone carriers implement call authentication technology so consumers can trust their caller ID again, with no additional line-item for consumers, and includes a process to help rural carriers implement this technology.
- Allow carriers to offer call blocking services to consumers with no additional line charge on an opt-out basis with important transparency safeguards to make sure important calls aren’t inadvertently blocked.
- Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue rules to protect consumers from calls they didn’t agree to receive and to ensure consumers can withdraw consent.
- Require the FCC to enact safeguards so companies can’t abuse robocall exemptions.
- Ensure the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when it tracks down robocallers, including by extending the statute of limitations from one year to three, and in some instances four, years for callers violating robocall prohibitions.
- Mandate the FCC to submit a report to Congress on the implementation of its reassigned numbers database to make sure the Commission is effectively protecting consumers from unwanted calls.
One financial services trade group noted concerns about how legitimate callers could seek redress under the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. Individuals would be able to opt-out of receiving calls and the calling party may not receive any notice of that decision, noted the Credit Union National Association in a letter to the subcommittee. Callers will also not have a mechanism for getting erroneously blocked calls unblocked.