The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act is Reintroduced in Congress
On February 4, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (HR 946), which is intended to “strengthen” the TCPA and the FCC’s fight against robocalls. Rep. Pallone had originally proposed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act on June 7, 2018, when he joined forces with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the legislation. The previous version of the bill did not move beyond the House Energy and Commerce Committee; but now, shortly after becoming Energy and Commerce Chairman, Pallone is again trying to pass this legislation to amend the TCPA.
According to a press release announcing the bills introduction: “Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are still on the rise. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will equip consumer protection agencies with innovative, new tools designed to stop the abusive practices by robocallers and better restrict unauthorized robocalls.”
Some of the most relevant amendments to the TCPA, as proposed by the reintroduced bill, are the following:
- Redefining the term “robocall” to mean a call made or text message sent:
- “[U]sing equipment that makes a series of calls to stored telephone numbers, including numbers stored on a list, or to telephone numbers produced using a random or sequential number generator, except for a call made using only equipment that the caller demonstrates requires substantial additional human intervention to dial or place a call after a human initiates the series of calls;” or
- “[U]sing an artificial or prerecorded voice.”
- Expanding the FCC enforcement authorities against violations to the TCPA;
- Allowing consumers to revoke consent they had previously given to receive calls “at any time and in any reasonable manner, regardless of the context in which consent was provided;”
- Codifying a reassigned number database to put robocallers on notice when a telephone number has been reassigned to a new customer who has not consented to automated call or texts, along with a safe harbor provision for callers using the database and complying with several requirements;
- Limiting the number of robocalls exempted from the TCPA under the FCC’s rules;
- Requiring providers of voice services to implement caller ID authentication technology associated with a call before the call can be put through; and
- Extending the statute of limitations from one year to four years for callers violating robocall prohibitions.
Like the recently reintroduced TRACED Act, this legislation is well intentioned; however, like the TRACED Act, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act does not seem appropriately tailored to deter bad-faith actors from making abusive robocalls, nor will it likely prevent professional plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ attorneys from engaging in abusive TCPA litigation tactics. Rather, if adopted, this bill will result in increased requirements and even more substantial hurdles for legitimate businesses, who are trying to contact their consumers in good faith.