WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced two pieces of legislation to crack down on robocalls. The Protection from Robocalling Act, introduced with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would end a telecom exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act that some companies have exploited to enable illegal robocalling. Telecom companies were originally exempted from Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversight because they were regulated by other federal agencies. However, as those federal regulations were rolled back, the exemption remained in place. This created a loophole that allows telecom companies that actively facilitate illegal robocalling to escape FTC enforcement. The Protection from Robocalling Act closes that loophole, giving the FTC the authority it needs to investigate telecom companies that knowingly provide VoIP and short duration call services to illegal robocallers.
The Data Analytics Robocall Technology (DART) Act, introduced with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), would establish a pilot program to expand the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ongoing efforts to combat robocalls by blocking unauthentic calls at their origin. Specifically, the DART Act would instruct the FCC to carry out a one-year pilot program for voice service providers to use caller identification authentication procedures and data analytics to identify and block suspected illegal robocalls, while allowing emergency service alert calls to remain un-interrupted. It would also provide a pathway to appeal for calls unintentionally blocked that may be otherwise allowable under law.
“Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive – they are illegal,” Klobuchar said. “New technology has enabled scammers to ‘spoof’ or alter their phone numbers so that the calls appear to be local, making them nearly impossible to recognize or track. Worse still, they often target seniors who are particularly susceptible to these scammers, which has led, in some cases, to the loss of their entire life savings. The DART Act would establish a pilot program to expand the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to combat robocalls and help hold these criminals accountable while also ensuring public safety. The Protection from Robocalling Act would close a loophole that robocall companies exploit to scam and annoy consumers and enable the Federal Trade Commission to also crack down on illegal robocalling schemes.”
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect consumers from robocalls, ticket bots, unauthorized charges on their phone bills, and deceptive practices by fraudulent online travel booking websites. In June, Klobuchar and Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Deter Obnoxious, Nefarious, and Outrageous Telephone (DO NOT) Call Act, legislation to improve enforcement and enhance penalties for violations made under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In May, the Klobuchar-backed Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act passed in the Senate. The bipartisan legislation would increase penalties for fraudulent telemarketers, while also implementing measures to proactively protect consumers from receiving unwanted robocalls. In April 2018, Klobuchar joined members of the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee to introduce the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act. The legislation, led by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), would help the FCC remove barriers that prevent the agency from pursuing those who violate robocall rules. In 2015, Klobuchar called on the FCC to implement “Do Not Disturb” technology to block telemarketing and unwanted robocalls on both landline and wireless phones.