The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. This legislation will result in harsher penalties for scammers who make illegal, unwanted robocalls.
The measure was sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, and passed with a 429-3 vote. The bill will strengthen the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC's) ability to crack down on illegal robocallers.
Prior to the vote, Pallone said that the volume of robocalls currently being made is more than just a nuisance, but a circumstance adversely affecting the way consumers use their telephones. "These calls are undermining our entire phone system, and that's something we all need to take very, very seriously," he said, according to The Hill.
According to some estimates, the number of robocallers plaguing U.S. consumers rose by 50% between 2017 and 2018, with nearly 48 billion robocalls made in 2018.
The measure would require carriers to use technology verifying caller identities, at no cost to the consumer. It would also expand the FCC's authority to penalize those that send these spam calls, and raise the penalty for illegal robocallers from $1,500 per violation to $10,000 per violation.
The CTIA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Kelly Cole, welcomed the passage of the bill.
“We applaud the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Pallone, Ranking Member Walden, Chairman Doyle and Ranking Member Latta on the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act and the House of Representatives for their overwhelming support in passing this noteworthy legislation,” Cole said. “The wireless industry is committed to protecting consumers, and we look forward to working with lawmakers to implement solutions that help stop illegal robocalls.”
A measure similar to the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passed the Senate earlier this year. Known as the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED), the measure passed with a nearly unanimous 97-1 vote.
Separately, the FCC is working to combat robocalls. In early June, the FCC voted unanimously to give telcos the authority to identify and block robocalls without having to first get permission from subscribers. AT&T became the first carrier to implement a robocall blocking process based on the FCC’s authority.