House to vote on anti-robocall bill

The House is likely to vote an anti-robocall bill with backing in both chambers as soon as next week, increasing the likelihood that legislation cracking down on the scourge of spam calls will reach President Trump’s desk before the end of the year.

House and Senate lawmakers released the text of the compromise bill on Wednesday, showcasing the result of months of negotiations to smooth out different versions of the legislation in both chambers. The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, named after its sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), is likely to pass easily next week.

“I am proud to have worked with my House and Senate colleagues on a strong, bipartisan anti-robocall bill that I believe can be signed into law,” said Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement. “This legislation is the product of months of good-faith negotiations between the House and Senate, and will go a long way towards combatting both scam and spam calls.”

“I look forward to the House voting on this bill very soon,” he added.

What’s in the bill: The bill would require phone companies to block robocalls without charging customers any extra money and require most carriers in the U.S. to ensure that calls are coming from real numbers. It would give government regulators more time to find scammers and penalize them more aggressively.

It would also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deliver reports to Congress about how much action they are taking against illegal robocalling operations and oversee a group of companies tasked with investigating where robocalls are coming from in the first place.

And the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act would push the Department of Justice to take action against illegal robocallers more often.

Now vs. then: The House version had sought to expand the definition of what a “robocall” is, which could have helped the FCC crack down on a wider range of unwanted calls, but that provision did not make it into the compromise bill.

Other House amendments did make it in, however, including a provision that would initiate a proceeding to protect customers from “one-ring” scams, which occur when fraudulent calls only ring once, encouraging the recipient to call back the number and potentially rack up fees.