June 27, 2018

Cortez Masto Introduces Bill to Deter Illegal Robocalls

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the Deter Obnoxious, Nefarious, and Outrageous Telephone Calls Act or the DO NOT Call Act of 2018, legislation that will improve enforcement and enhance penalties for violations made under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Initiating a robocall without consent of an individual is outlawed under the TCPA, which permits the FCC to issue fines and victims to pursue civil action in court. However, violators can set up shell companies designed to evade monetary fines and as technology has made it easier to make robocalls, illegal calls have skyrocketed in recent years. They are frequently used to defraud and scam mostly elderly Americans. U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are original cosponsors of the bill.

“Billions of illegal robocalls are initiated every year, amounting to billions of dollars lost on telephone scams targeting the elderly,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Stricter penalties and better enforcement are needed to protect Americans from being defrauded by bad actors who are knowingly violating the law.”

“Illegal robocalls are a nuisance and Congress must pass legislation to put an end to them once and for all,” said Senator Schumer, “Too many Americans, especially the elderly, have been on the receiving end of these malicious robocalls and end up victims of massive financial scams. We need to beef up the penalties and enforcement for illegal robocalls to stop them from happening in the first place, and I’m confident our new legislation will do just that.”

“Even with stiff penalties and aggressive enforcement, complaints have been on the rise over incessant robocalls,” McCaskill, former chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, said. “Missourians are fed up with these intrusive and illegal calls—and it’s time we give law enforcement the tools to enforce criminal penalties to ensure that the people behind these scams are held accountable.”

“This bill is an important step forward in protecting Granite Staters and Americans who are subjected to abuse and scams through fraudulent and burdensome robocalls,” Senator Hassan said. “As these scam artists continually find new ways to avoid penalties for their unlawful actions, this bill will give our law enforcement the resources they need to crack down on bad actors and protect consumers.” 

“Most robocalls aren’t just unwanted and disruptive – they are illegal,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Worse still, they often target seniors, who can lose their entire life savings to fraudulent cons. By giving law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on scammers, we can hold those criminals accountable.”

This bill is endorsed by Consumer Action.

If passed, the DO NOT Call Act would:

  • Create a penalty specific to violations of the TCPA that includes up to one year in prison for any willful and knowing violation and, on top of this, includes an “aggravated” version of the offense which can include up to three years in prison.
  • An aggravated offense is defined as:
    • a previous conviction under the section;
    • an offense involving more than 100,000 violations in a day, 1,000,000 in a month, or 10,000,000 in a year; 
    • the offense was committed in furtherance of a felony;
    • the offense caused loss to 1 or more persons aggregating $5,000 in a year.
  • Raise the maximum penalty for civil forfeiture and criminal fines from $10,000 to $20,000 per violation for falsifying Caller ID. 

The text of the bill can be found HERE.