WASHINGTON, DC – Robocalls are plaguing American consumers, scamming individuals and undermining our communications systems. Energy and Commerce Committee leaders are marking up bipartisan robocall legislation today to cut the line on robocalls once and for all. Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following opening remarks at a Subcommittee on Communications and Technology markup on H.R. 3375, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this markup, and for working with myself, Mr. Latta, and the Chairman of the full Committee Mr. Pallone on the legislation before us today. Our bipartisan bill has a name that truly fits its mission: the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. I say that because I associate “bad” with “illegal,” and stopping bad robocalls is a priority for me and everyone on this committee because it is a priority of our constituents.
At the outset, I’d just like to point out that this is not the first time this Committee has acted on this issue. Last Congress, we held hearings and legislated against fraudulent robocalls and spoofing with the RAY BAUM’S Act, this included reauthorizing the FCC for the first time in over two decades to properly arm the Commission with the tools to go after such problems. These actions all add up to better enabling consumers, carriers, law enforcement, and the Commission to target these scammers.
I’ve held 22 town hall meetings across my district so far this year – and have another 13 scheduled over the July 4 recess – and at nearly every meeting I get asked about what Congress is doing to stop these robocalls.
We all know the severity of this problem, but the sheer scope bears repeating. According to one study last year, an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls were placed nationwide. And so far this year, 25 billion robocalls were placed nationwide, equaling roughly 76 robocalls per person affected. And last month alone, Americans received an estimated 4.7 billion robocalls. Suffice to say this is a scourge that is undermining our telecommunications system.
Illegal robocalls affect American life in increasingly harmful ways, from scams to defraud consumers to disrupting our health care system – at one medical center, administrators registered more than 4,500 calls over a two-hour period, according to a recent report from the Washington Post.
The legislation before us today addresses a problem faced by virtually everyone with a telephone. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act takes the fight to robocalls on multiple fronts.
This legislation requires that phone carriers implement call authentication technology, so consumers can trust their caller ID again, at no additional cost to consumers, and includes a process to help rural carriers implement this technology.
When you receive a call from an unfamiliar number with a familiar area code – say 541 for Oregonians in my district – you should be confident that there is a legitimate reason for the call. Our legislation takes steps to give consumers that confidence.
We all get calls that we do not want and that do not have any relevance to us personally or professionally. Our bill directs 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 from receiving calls they no longer want.
The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act ensures 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. To be clear: those who carry out illegal robocalls are criminals and should be prosecuted as such.
Our bill also allows 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.
And while our legislation seeks to address the concerns of legitimate callers from being unduly blocked, the FCC is required to enact rules that prevent companies from abusing those exemptions.
This gets at a very important point – as we go after the bad guys, we must take care not to unintentionally cut off legitimate uses of autodialing technology. Auto-dialing technology is used to alert consumers of fraudulent use of their credit cards, provide notices on school closures, or help people use ride-sharing services. We need to make a clear distinction in targeting those parties that have malicious intent as opposed to those who provide services that Americans rely on every day.
As we continue to work on the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, I’d just like to reiterate the importance of this work. We are addressing a telecommunications challenge that nearly every single American consumer is facing – in fact, everyone in this room has probably been hit with a robocall already today. So, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues across the aisle to get this bill across the finish line and cut the line on illegal robocalls once and for all.
Thank you and I yield back.