U.S. lawmakers agree on bill to fight ‘robocall epidemic’


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives have reached an agreement on one of the few things that unites polarized Washington — a hatred of the billions of deceptive and annoying robocalls that Americans receive each year.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement on Friday that it had an agreement to combine an anti-robocall bill the Senate passed in May with a measure the House approved in July.

“Today, we are proud to announce that we have come to an agreement in principle on legislation, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, to combat the robocall epidemic that we believe can be signed into law by the President,” six lawmakers said in a statement.

“We look forward to finalizing the bill text in the coming days,” they said.

The legislation would require carriers to verify calls and allow robocalls to be blocked at no cost to consumers. It would also give the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement tools to go after scammers.

The agreement was reached by Republican Senator John Thune, chair of a Commerce Committee subcommittee; Representative Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Commerce Committee and Representative Bob Latta. Democrats on the bill are Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Senator Ed Markey and Mike Doyle.

In June, the FCC voted to allow phone companies to block robocalls by default and to allow carriers to let companies block any calls not on a consumer’s contact list if the customer opts in.

FCC commissioners conceded the vote would not end all unwanted calls and urged carriers to take further steps to block them. Some commissioners urged mobile phone providers to offer call blocking tools free of charge.

Reporting by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown