Durbin, Senators Introduce Bill To Stop Illegal Robocalls

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Tina Smith (D-MN), today introduced the Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act, a bill that would help end the plague of illegal robocalls in America.  Robocalls have become a widespread annoyance, but are also costing consumers billions of dollars.  In 2016, 22 million Americans lost more than $9.5 billion to robocall scams that mainly target the most vulnerable in society, like senior citizens, immigrants, and people living with disabilities.

“Like millions of Americans, I’ve experienced the nuisance of constant robocalls.  This is out of control and it’s up to Congress to do something about it,” Durbin said.  “Consumers don’t deserve to be preyed upon by scammers that are just trying to undermine someone’s personal privacy and financial information.  It’s time to put an end to this.”

“Robocalls have become an epidemic in this country, with Americans receiving an estimated 48 million robocalls last year alone. A recent study found people receive an average of 10 unwanted robocalls per day. These calls are not only an annoyance, but they decrease the productivity of American workers and prey on seniors and other vulnerable populations, who may fall victim to tax and other scams,” Hirono said. “The Protecting American Consumers from Robocalls Act is a step in the right direction. By making it easier for individuals to sue those behind violations of the Do-Not-Call Registry and increasing the fines imposed for such violations, this bill will make the registry live up to its name and end unwanted robocalls once and for all.”

“The TCPA empowers consumers to say no to unwanted telemarketing calls and texts, a right that must be protected and expanded. This legislation will give consumers stronger recourse for violations of our bedrock telemarketing laws – welcome relief for the millions of Americans receiving unwanted calls and texts each year,” said Markey.

“Fraudulent robocall scams are not just annoying, they also take billions of dollars from vulnerable Americans, like seniors, immigrant communities, and those with disabilities,” Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m proud to support Senator Durbin’s legislation that will empower consumers and give Illinoisans the resources they need to go after abusive robocallers.”

“Robocalls aren’t just annoying—Americans actually lose billions of dollars a year to robocall scams. Our new legislation will finally give consumers the ability to fight back by allowing them to petition for damages after receiving just one illegal robocall without their consent. It’s time to finally hang up on robocalls,” said Klobuchar.

“The onslaught of unwanted and abusive robocalls is on the rise, but populations that often bear the brunt of these scams, like older Americans, can face barriers in seeking recourse,” said Smith “This bill improves consumers’ ability to fight robocalls, empowering everyone to take steps to deter and defend against the abusive practices of fraudulent telemarketers.”

Americans received a record 48 billion robocalls in 2018.  In March 2019, YouMail estimated that Illinois residents received more than 183 million robocalls, which equates to more than 68 robocalls per second.  Despite repeated legislative efforts, regulatory enforcement actions, and the proliferation of call-blocking mobile applications, the scourge of robocalls continues to plague everyday Americans at alarming rates.

Today’s bill would enhance the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 and the Do-Not-Call Registry by giving landline and cellular consumers alike the ability to petition for statutory damages for all unconsented-to telemarketing calls immediately after the first violation of the TCPA. 

The bill is supported by the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Action, and the Consumer Federation of America.

Full text of today’s bill is available here.