House Bill Wants to Curb Foreign Robocallers Targeting Americans

Burdun Iliya/

The legislation would create a task force to crack down on malicious calls that originate outside the U.S.

There could soon be a new, separate interagency task force to explore how to quash robocalls—on top of the Attorney General-led task force recently mandated by the passage of the TRACED Act to assess the prosecution of robocall offenders. 

The newly-proposed crew would focus on curbing the calls that come from beyond America’s borders.

Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., introduced the Foreign Robocall Elimination Act, which directs the Federal Communications Commission to convene its own robocall-related interagency task force that will study “the most effective ways to combat unlawful robocalls made into the United States from outside the United States” and how to get foreign countries to adopt their own call authentication technologies. 

“Robocalls are an issue that has affected nearly every American, including myself,” Budd said in a statement. “These seemingly endless automated phone calls disrupt our daily lives, constitute a serious form of harassment, and expose millions of Americans to dangerous financial scams.”

Heaps of robocalls that Americans receive originate abroad, but there hasn’t been a great deal of coordination between the U.S. and foreign governments to align on standards for number authentication or relevant law enforcement measures, and the TRACED Act only goes so far. Budd’s Communications Director Curtis Kalin told Nextgov Monday that the “key difference” between the two bills is the TRACED Act’s domestic law enforcement focus, versus the new bill’s deliberately foreign focus. He noted that in early February, the FCC sent letters to All Access Telecom and other so-called “gateway providers” asking for help in “stopping the flow of malicious robocalls” that originate from non-domestic sources. Kalin added that the Federal Trade Commission’s chief litigation counsel recently explained how overseas robocall operations are more difficult to track and stop than those that are dialed domestically. 

“All of these factors prompted Rep. Budd to introduce this bill,” he said.

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and Dan Bishop, R-N.C., would require the FCC to consult with the FTC and the U.S. Attorney General and launch a separate task force to comprehensively study a variety of topics that could catalyze the development of new measures to fight robocalls from abroad. The group would compare the number of unlawful robocalls made from within the U.S. to those made from outside of it and also assess whether federal agencies need more resources to combat international robocalls. And while the TRACED Act called on domestic carriers to introduce call-authentication services, the study required by Budd’s bill would address how to entice foreign governments to adopt their own call authentication technology. Members would also examine ways in which countries can share the number-verifying information for international calls more seamlessly. Further, the new legislation also aims to identify means to incentivize foreign countries to cooperate with American law enforcement in curbing the pesky calls. 

“Obviously the law enforcement strategy must be different when we’re trying to eliminate a threat from abroad,” Kalin said. 

The task force would be expected to submit their comprehensive report to Congress within 10 months after the legislation is enacted. 

Budd’s bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday.