Congress Reaches Deal to Fight Robocalls

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“It’s time to put Americans back in charge of their phones,” lawmakers said.

Six committee-leading lawmakers across the House and Senate announced they’ll soon release comprehensive legislation that aims to put pesky robocalls to an end. 

“Today, we are proud to announce that we have come to an agreement in principle on legislation, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, to combat the robocall epidemic that we believe can be signed into law by the President,” six House and Senate leaders said in a statement.

Robocalls occur when pre-recorded messages target consumers through computerized auto-dialers. Federal insiders have long been working to tackle the dangerous scams robocalls introduce through various regulatory and legislative efforts. Though the Congress members note that an estimated 26.3 billion unwanted calls were placed in the U.S. in 2018, the sometimes malicious robocalls have been on the rise for the last half-decade. 

Just last month Americans received a near-record of 5.5 billion.

To combat them, the Senate in May passed Sen. John Thune’s, R-S.D., Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence, or TRACED Act by a vote of 97-1. And in July, the House passed the Rep. Frank Pallone’s, D-N.J., Stopping Bad Robocalls Act by a vote of 429-3. Though a final form of the combined legislation has yet to be released, officials said the two bills will be “merged and reconciled as part of the agreement in principle.”

All the bill’s contents are still unclear, but lawmakers noted it will likely mandate telephone carriers to verify calls and allow robocalls to be blocked in a consistent and transparent way—without extra charges for consumers. The agreement will also aim to provide the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement officials with new abilities to quickly combat scammers. 

Aside from Pallone and Thune, Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., Mike Doyle, D-Pa., Bob Latta, R-Ohio, and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., also signed on in support. 

“It’s time to put Americans back in charge of their phones,” the lawmakers said. “We look forward to finalizing the bill text in the coming days.”