Legislators Kill Bill To Allow Robocalling Of Cell Phones

Less than three months after introducing a bill that would legalize automated robocalls to cell phone numbers, the Nebraska Congressman behind the legislation has listened to reason and pulled the plug on it.

Rep. Lee Terry’s robocalls bill is dead.

“We’re driving a stake through its heart,” said Congressman Lee Terry, who introduced the bill in September, supposedly with the goal of making it easier for information such as flight delays and school closings to be disseminated. “Dead. Done. Buried.”

The bill would have prohibited telemarketers from blowing up your mobile, but that didn’t suffice to many people who were concerned about these first calls being just the thin edge of the wedge that would eventually fling open the door to any robocalls.

In addition to it being a privacy concern and a total nuisance, answering unwanted robocalls would have taken away precious minutes from those customers without unlimited voice plans.

Last week, 48 of the 50 Attorneys General penned an open letter to Congress asking them to let this bill die an early death.

Rep. Terry said he did his best to make the bill palatable, working with consumer advocates and other legislators to find a happy place where everyone wins, but no such Eden was ever located.

“There was just no language where they would be comfortable and I could be assured that people wouldn’t receive unwanted calls,” Terry said.

In their letter explaining the demise of the bill, Terry and his co-authors stated, “[W]e have learned is that there is no hope for this legislation.”

Here is the full text of the letter sent to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton:

Dear Chairman Upton:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and Chairman Walden, for allowing the hearing to occur on the merits of HR 3035. The hearing really helped to bring to our attention the issue of out of date telecommunications policy and how we need to begin to modernize current law.

However, what we have learned is there is no hope for this legislation. We have heard from our constituents. They are concerned about what they believe will happen should this legislation become law. We have convened meetings with numerous consumer groups, as well as other organizations who have an interest in the legislation, but we have been unable to reach any kind of consensus on language that bans unwanted cell phone calls, while allowing calls that are consented to.

In an attempt to thread the needle and address the issues that have been brought before us, it is clear that this bill cannot be improved in a manner that will address the concerns of those involved. Therefore, we ask that HR 3035 not be advanced by the committee.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Lee Terry
Edolphus “Ed” Towns

Uncle! Terry kills robocalls bill [Omaha.com]

Thanks to PD for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Cat says:

    This won’t stop them, they spoof their phone numbers anyway.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      The law we really need is one that requires every telco to verify that calls originating with their customers that have trunk lines with the ability to transmit caller ID info have an actual phone number in that info that is assigned to that customer. If the number is not one of the numbers assigned to that customer, the call is to be dropped.

      Also, businesses are not allowed to block caller info, unless they have a specific legal exemption as provided in the law, and the telco is required to enforce that (drop the call if no caller ID info is transmitter over trunks to non-exempted customers). Residence customers will still be allowed to block caller ID info.

      And one more part of this law needs to mandate an ability for any customer to choose to have calls w/o caller ID info blocked from their phone line.

      • DarthCoven says:

        Why in the world would Congress pass such a common sense law that benefits the citizen and not the sleazy business?

        • galm666 says:


          Seriously though, unless these robocallers want to pay my phone bill for me, they need to stay off my line.

      • scoosdad says:

        All good ideas, but I’d like to propose an amendment to your regulations. Telcos should have to provide caller ID information on every landline at no extra charge.

        I have a landline with a very basic, no frills (measured) service on it, my long distance on it comes from a provider who doesn’t charge me a fee if I don’t make long distance calls over it in a month, but Verizon wants to charge me almost $9 a month more in fees and taxes just to enable caller ID on the line. That’s nuts. It probably costs them money to block caller ID from the line. This is akin to the old days when telcos charged an extra monthly fee for touch tone. They do, because the can.

  2. Bsamm09 says:

    I Congressman had a good intention when he came up with a bill but decided against it when people pointed out the possible unintended consequences? I’m shocked.

  3. AngryK9 says:

    Yeah, going to be sort of difficult to outlaw using cell phones in cars, when all these robocallers are calling your phone every 30 seconds.

  4. Quirk Sugarplum says:

    “There was just no language where they would be comfortable and I could be assured that people wouldn’t receive unwanted calls,” Terry said.

    Dear Rep. Terry…have you or anyone you know ever received a *wanted* robocall?

    • Coffee says:

      The Bride approves.

    • Costner says:

      Actually it is possible. A lot of parents sign up for automated calls alerting them if school is cancelled and/or if their child fails to show up for class. I’m guessing in some cases, robocalls are requested… but this bill was still a bad idea since parents could already sign up for those types of services if they so desire.

      • George4478 says:

        I liked how those types of “good” robocalls were used as the reason we needed this bill. Never mind that we can get those good robocalls now without Congress since they are all opt-in systems where the parent gives the school the number they want called.

        Congress would like us to be able to also get calls we don’t want. No thanks.

  5. kataisa says:

    I know I should say it’s a good thing that he decided against this bill but the fact that he thought a bill supporting *robocalls to cell phones* was a good idea to begin with shows how clueless and out of touch politicians really are, and that goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

  6. MaytagRepairman says:

    80’s Robot approves.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      Which leads to a sad realization: the death of the landline has unfortunately taken the novelty phone industry down with it.

      Try activating the robot phone, hamburger phone, football phone (free with your 1992 SI subscription!), or lips phone on Verizon.

  7. Coffee says:

    The Bride approves.

  8. dangerp says:

    I read the first three words of the headline, and didn’t feel the need to read any further…

  9. Costner says:

    Now if we could just get a bill banning politicians and their hired guns from calling my cell phone I’d be grateful.

    Why are politicians always exempt from the rules? They can call your cell phone with their stupid recorded messages, they don’t have to pay sales tax on most advertising they do for campaigns, they can stick their little annoying signs in lawns whereas most other signs require a permit, and they can let those signs and banners blow away and litter up the countryside where homeowners or business owners might be fined if they did the same thing.

    It greatly annoys me that politicians put themselves on such a pedastal.

    • Coyoty says:

      They’re exempt from the rules because they make the rules. The rules are their way to limit the competition.

    • proptart says:

      “Now if we could just get a bill banning politicians and their hired guns from calling my cell phone I’d be grateful.

      Why are politicians always exempt from the rules? “

      The difference is that politicians are engaging in political speech, which is given greater protection under the First Amendment than commerical speech. It would be unconstitutional to ban those type of call.

  10. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:


    I wrote to my congressman about this, and basically told him that I thought our government had more important things to worry about than passing laws allowing robocallers to pester us. He never responded, but I felt better. I also wrote a letter to the editor to our local paper and encouraged others to write to him.

    Now I can put aside my evil plan to somehow forward robocallers to his office phone if they bother me on my cell.

  11. The Lone Gunman says:

    The constituents standing outside his office with torches and pitchforks may also have had a bearing on the withdrawal of the bill.

  12. Coffee Fiend says:

    You didn’t think it was gonna be that easy, did you?

  13. JollyJumjuck says:

    I have been getting “Whaaaaa! This is your Captain calling!” on my cell phone for months. There is no way I can find to get the “do not call” option. In fact, I ignore any number I don’t recognize.

  14. maxhobbs says:

    When I get robocalled I wait for the real person to get on the phone then I talk to them like I am a robot.

  15. RiverStyX says:

    Greetings, friends. Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you’ve got the power inside you right now. So, use it, and send one dollar to Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield.

    Don’t delay, eternal happiness is just a dollar away!

  16. BurtReynolds says:

    I want to know which 2 AGs didn’t object to this bill.

    $5 says one of the two was Ken Cuccinelli.

  17. Swins says:

    Why did he come up with the bill to allow it in the first place?

    Also note, those of you with no home phone and cell phones only, you are not covered.
    If you fill out any form at any store and they ask for a home phone, and you use your cell phone number as the response. You will get robocalled.

    • Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

      Because they are lawmakers making policy on systems they don’t understand, and thus are listening to paid lobbyists to “teach” them how it works.

      A horrible system all around.

  18. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    Now all they need to do is kill SOPA and I may consider not voting against every incumbent.

  19. AEN says:

    I might buy into this if I get $5 for every robo call I answer.

  20. akronharry says:

    I received THREE robocalls yesterday.
    One (2895889392) said that my Mastercard was locked and to call the same number to unlock it.
    I then got a call from 2064073819 and it said my Emeral prepaid Mastercard was locked and to call 3232304571 to unlock it.
    A few minutes late another message said the same thinkgabout the prepaid card and to call 2064073819 to unlock it.
    This is my business phone and only a few people have the number. Never used the number to buy anything.
    It needs to stop NOW!!!! I don’t have time for this crap and to think some idiot congessman wanted to pass legislation allowing this. Who paid him?

  21. parv says:

    Does the Consumerist Flickr group not have a suitable “Kill Bill” cosplay photo? Damn it, the title demands it!

  22. akronharry says:

    A few minutes ago I commented about my three calls on my business cell phone. I can’t believe I just got another call from “Rachel at Cardholder Services” (2532468503) on my personal cell that said my account is fine but to call at whatever number to discuss the account. This is bullshit.

  23. Krazycalvin says:

    Lets give the ol boys a round of applause for this victory.