Lawmakers Unite Against Common Enemy: Annoying Robocalls

Apr 30, 2019

Nothing unites two opposing sides more than mutual hatred. In a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, that unifying enemy was robocalls.

“Unwanted robocalls and texts are the top consumer complaint received by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, chair of the subcommittee on Communications and Technology, at Tuesday’s hearing. “In the month of March alone, phones in my hometown of Pittsburgh received an estimated 37 million robocalls.”

The committee considered seven bills, aimed to target illegal spam calls and texts and reduce the frequency of robocalls, which Doyle called an “extremely annoying practice.”

“At best, Americans find these robocalls pesky,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), ranking member of the subcommittee. “At worst, these illegal calls scam hardworking Americans out of their life savings.”

Doyle is a co-sponsor of several of the bills referenced in Tuesday’s hearing, including one proposed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and another from Latta.

Doyle cited the 48 billion robocalls made last year as reason to pursue the bipartisan legislation, noting that that number will increase in 2019. One lawmaker on the committee was robocalled during the hearing itself.

Aaron Foss, the creator of Nomorobo, a service that blocks spam calls, testified at the hearing and asked lawmakers to consider an opt-in system for sales robocalls, not an opt-out system.

“Right now you have to take action if you don’t want to get the calls,” Foss said. “But I believe you should actually have to take action if you do want to receive them from certain parties, with the obvious exceptions.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed that certain types of pre-recorded calls were useful, such as messages from schools and emergency services, but that those were not the types of calls harassing consumers.

Legislation addressing robocalls are also being considered in the Senate.