“ROBOCOP Act” Would Force Phone Companies To Do Something About Robocalls

As we’ve shown before, wireless and landline phone companies can do something to provide customers with free and easy-to-use tools to block unwanted automated calls — they just aren’t doing it, even when hundreds of thousands of consumers explicitly ask them to. A new piece of legislation introduced today hopes to compel the telecom providers to finally make it easier for customers to just say no to robocalls.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California is introducing the “Repeated Objectionable Bothering Of Consumers On Phones” — or ROBOCOP, if you prefer… which you do — Act, which would require that telephone service providers offer their customers free, optional robocall-blocking technology.

“After hearing from many constituents about this issue–and experiencing the annoyance of robocalls myself–I am proud to introduce legislation to block robocalls once and for all,” said Speier, about the legislation, which was supported by our colleagues at Consumers Union, whose End Robocalls campaign has gathered over 600,000 signatures and demonstrated Americans’ desire to end these intrusive calls that are easy to send, but difficult to avoid.

In addition to mandating that phone companies offer robocall-blocking tools, the proposed law seeks to hold the telecoms accountable if they fail to take action. If passed, the FCC would have 18 months to put together new regulations regarding the deployment of these tools, which would not block automated calls from public safety agencies, or any calls that a customer consents to receive.

Under the ROBOCOP Act, consumers would have the option of whether or not they want to use a call-blocker.

While nearly 225 million Americans have put their numbers on the Do Not Call registry, limiting telemarketing calls of any type, and current law already forbids most non-emergency robocalls to cellphones unless the recipient has consented to receive those calls, there are still nearly 900 robocalls placed every second of the day, according to a recent report.

The Federal Trade Commission receives some 3.5 million complaints a year about Do Not Call violations. Many of these offending calls are made by scammers who don’t care about the DNC registry or the law, because they are already criminals and con artists.

“Robocalls are more than just a nuisance,” said CU’s Tim Marvin, who has headed up the End Robocalls campaign. “They can cost consumers real money when they are used to commit fraud. Telephone scammers use robocalls to rip off the elderly and other vulnerable consumers, resulting in an estimated $350 million in financial losses every year.”

Last year, Time Warner Cable became the first major landline service provider to integrate the option Nomorobo call-blocker into its service, allowing customers to toggle the blocking off and on with the press of a button.

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