Can Disdain for Robocalls Unite a Polarized Country?

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed legislation this week aimed at stopping those automated phone call messages that have become the bane of consumers, with only three votes going against the measure.

by Jonathan D. Salant, NJ Advance Media Group / December 5, 2019
Photo by Tran Quang Thien on Unsplash

(TNS) — Here’s one issue that has united a fractured Congress: Those pesky robocalls.

The U.S. House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation, 417-3, to crack down on those automated messages that have become the bane of consumers. Only two House Republicans and a Republican-turned-independent opposed the bill. All 12 House members from New Jersey voted yes.

“Talk to anyone, and you will hear just how annoyed people are by these calls," said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., the bill’s chief sponsor. “Unlawful robocalls are not only a nuisance, they are also undermining our entire phone system and consumers’ safety as a result. Too often Americans simply will not pick up their phones, out of fear that a robocall is on the other end of the line.”

Having already been negotiated with the Senate, the bipartisan legislation is expected to pass the other chamber and head to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The legislation requires carriers to offer call-authentication technology and allow their customers to block robocalls at no additional charge, gives the Federal Communications more time to go after robocallers and impose higher fines, helps the FCC and phone companies discover which firms are responsible for large numbers of robocalls, and provides protections for doctors, hospitals and patients.

There were 5 billion illegal robocalls in November, including 136.6 million in New Jersey, an average of 13.4 per person, according to YouMail’s Robocall Index.

Besides the annoyance of discovering a recorded message at the other end of the line, robocalls also are used to rip off unsuspecting consumers, Pallone has said such scams cost 22 million Americans some $9.5 billion in 2016.

The Senate passed a bill, 97-1, in May, and the House approved its version, 429-3, in July. Lawmakers of both parties and both houses then agreed on a final measure last month.

The problem was so pervasive that when U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., held a press conference in April to support the bill, he was interrupted by a robocall.

©2019 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. 

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