Bipartisan House bill takes aim at robocalling scourge

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would require phone carriers to put call authentication technology in place within a year and a half of the bill becoming law. (FierceWireless)

A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers on Thursday unveiled a new anti-robocalling bill, marking the government’s latest effort to combat the influx of illegal robocalls that plague Americans daily.

The bipartisan version of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (PDF), introduced by leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, will be up for a panel vote next week.

“Americans deserve to be free of the daily danger and harassment of robocalls,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone and ranking member Greg Walden said in a joint statement. “It’s time we end the robocall epidemic and restore trust back into our phone system. We’re pleased to announce we’ve reached a deal on comprehensive bipartisan legislation to stop illegal robocalls.” 

More than just a nuisance, robocalls are causing harm to consumers through scams and fraud, with an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls placed last year, according to YouMail.

Part of the bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update exemptions for robocalls, including putting limits on the classes of parties that fall under exemption and the number of calls those companies can make.

RELATED: U.S. Senate passes anti-robocall TRACED Act

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would require phone carriers to put call authentication technology in place within a year and a half of the bill becoming law, at no charge to consumers. It would also enable phone service providers to offer additional call blocking services for free on an opt-out basis.

Major carriers have already promised to implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication protocol, and earlier this month the FCC authorized carriers to provide robocall blocking services by default (but did not mandate they do so).

Verizon on Friday applauded the new bill, and said it’s STIR/SHAKEN deployment is underway.

“Enough is enough - it's time for Americans to hang up on abusive robocallers once and for all. Verizon has already begun deploying the STIR-SHAKEN call authentication protocol for IP Voice services, and we welcome the continued momentum toward a bipartisan, comprehensive solution that empowers service providers, law enforcement, and most of all consumers,” said Robert Fisher, Verizon senior vice president of Federal Legislative Affairs in a statement.

RELATED: FCC gives telcos the authority to block robocalls

The proposed legislation also would give the FCC authority to implement tougher penalties against identified robocallers. The statute of limitations against callers violating the robocall laws would be extended from one year to three, and in some cases four years.

Industry group CTIA voiced its support Friday as well. CTIA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Kelly Cole said in a statement: ““We commend Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member Walden, Chairman Doyle and Ranking Member Latta for their Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. The wireless industry is committed to combating illegal robocalls and protecting consumers, and we thank Committee Leadership for tackling this important issue. We look forward to working on getting robocall legislation enacted.”

Last month the Senate adopted its own anti-robocalling legislation called the TRACED ACT.