Capitol Alert

Sick of robocalls? This California bill would force phone companies to crack down on them

How to respond if you receive a robocall

Americans received an estimated 29.3 billion in unwanted telemarketing calls in 2016, according to a YouMail Robocall Index released this week. The Federal Trade Commission's Kati Daffin explains how to avoid these unwanted calls.
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Americans received an estimated 29.3 billion in unwanted telemarketing calls in 2016, according to a YouMail Robocall Index released this week. The Federal Trade Commission's Kati Daffin explains how to avoid these unwanted calls.

A California lawmaker has submitted a bill that would require telecommunications companies to crack down on “neighbor spoofing” robocalls that are designed to appear as a local caller.

Senate Bill 208, sponsored by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, gives telecom companies until July 1, 2020, “to take the steps necessary to stop these illegal scams.”

It also calls on the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Attorney General’s Office to collaborate in punishing companies that fail to stop the calls, according to a statement from Hueso’s office.

In California, robocalls are strictly regulated. The California Public Utilities Commission states they may only be used in limited circumstances, such as a school informing parents of a student’s attendance or a police department issuing a public safety alert. They also are restricted to between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Americans receive around 4 billion robocalls a month, more than 1,500 calls per second, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

They can peak in tax season, when many Americans receive fraudulent calls that claim to be from the IRS.

Transaction Network Services, a data services company, reported this month that 143 million “nuisance and high risk calls” were placed on Tax Day 2018, with scam artists commonly posing as IRS employees.

“It is important to never let your guard down when callers are asking for personal information,” Transaction Network Services Chief Product Officer Bill Versen wrote when the company released its robocall report.

An epidemic of robocalls prompted California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to announce last December that he was joining a coalition of 39 other state attorneys general to find a way to put a stop to the unwanted calls.

S.B. 208 would require telecommunications companies to implement a series of security protocols recommended by a 2016 task force, and Hueso criticized the FCC for failing to enforce those protocols on a national level.

“Because of inaction on the federal level, this bill is needed to prevent illegal robocalls and ensure that California can effectively enforce consumer protection laws,” Hueso said in a statement.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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