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Hirono, Colleagues Introduce Bicameral Bill to Stop Illegal Robocalls

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and six of her colleagues in introducing the Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act, a bill that would help end the plague of illegal robocalls in America.  The legislation would give the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Do-Not-Call Registry teeth by providing all telephone subscribers, including small businesses, the ability to seek damages for all unconsented-to telemarketing calls immediately after such a call.

Robocalls have become a widespread annoyance, but are also costing consumers billions of dollars.  In 2023, 56 million Americans lost more than $25 billion to robocall scams.  These scams are also becoming more advanced with the creation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, which has lowered the cost of dialing to allow scammers to bombard non-consenting consumers with never-ending calls for pennies on the dollar.  Lead-generators compound this issue by inviting consumers to provide their information on one platform only to misuse and sell this information to hundreds of robocallers.  In addition, through neighbor spoofing—a deceptive practice that allows callers to disguise the number from which they are calling—scammers can trick unknowing consumers into answering the phone.  AI-generated voices that impersonate celebrities, family members, and elected officials makes scammers even more difficult to detect.

Robocall scams often target the most vulnerable within our communities, including senior citizens, immigrant communities, and people with disabilities. Small businesses also are bombarded with these illegal calls, creating additional and burdensome costs and interfering with productivity.

Americans received more than 55 billion robocalls in 2023, and despite repeated legislative efforts, regulatory enforcement actions, and the proliferation of call-blocking mobile applications, robocalls continue to plague everyday Americans at alarming rates. 

Specifically, the Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act would:

  • Allow small businesses to add their numbers to the Do-Not-Call Registry;
  • Provide landline and cellular consumers, including small businesses, who have telephone numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry, a private right of action after receiving one telephone call by or on behalf of the same entity in violation of the TCPA; and
  • Ensure that a minimum of $500 can be levied for each violation of the Do-Not-Call Registry.

In 1991, Congress passed the TCPA in response to a spike in telemarketing calls.  The TCPA prohibits calls using an automatic telephone dialing system or a prerecorded voice, including AI-generated voices, from being made to cell phones without the prior express consent of the call recipient.  While the TCPA also prohibits telemarketing calls to landlines without prior consent, these rules routinely are ignored because the enforceable penalties only apply if there are two or more calls in a 12-month period to the same line from the same caller.

In addition to Senator Hirono, the Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The bill is endorsed by the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, National Consumer League, and Public Citizen.

The full text of the legislation is available here.