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Lawmakers are finally preparing to take action to stop all those annoying robocalls

Updated 4 years ago
Robocalls legislation
Image: Bare Cases

It’s not exactly asecret that robocalls have gotten out of control. According to data published last month by Consumer Reports, about one-third of all calls of any kind — including both landline and mobile calls — fall under the category of either robocalls and annoying marketing queries, or they’re just outright scams.

Consumer Reports cites a report published by Transaction Network Services (a company that manages data networks for telecom providers like Verizon and Sprint) which claimed that in the first six months of this year, robocall activity was up 15 percent of the same period in 2017. TNS vice president Paul Florack even went so far as to lament that it’s as if “we’re being trained not to answer our phones.”

This week, meanwhile, a few U.S. Senators decided to take action. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota on Wednesday introduced the REAL PEACE Act. It stands for “Robocall Elimination At Last Protecting Every American Consumer’s Ears” and it would give the Federal Trade Commission the power to go after companies that facilitate these annoying calls.

“This bill would close an outdated loophole that enables scammers and spammers to make intrusive and illegal robocalls to millions of unsuspecting American households,” Blumenthal said in a release. “The REAL PEACE Act will give long neglected enforcement authority to the FTC that allows them to more aggressively crack down on these calls and finally hold bad actors accountable.”

Blumenthal’s office went on to note in that release that the FTC got more than 4.5 million complaints about robocall companies last year.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission wants to take some action of its own along these lines. Not only does the commission want to give wireless carriers more power to block spammy texts, but we also got word last week that the agency is going to set up a database of phone numbers. Businesses will be able to check it to make sure numbers they’re allowed to call haven’t been assigned to new people.

Also this month, the chairman of the FCC wrote to the heads of AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Google, among other companies, prodding them to likewise take action. Specifically, he asked that they work together to create a new kind of caller ID system to mitigate one of the most annoying robocall practices — spoofing, which involves a robocaller making it seem like they’re calling from a local, genuine number in your area to increase the likelihood that you’ll actually answer the phone.

Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.