Two Republicans and one independent were the only holdouts Wednesday as the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act by a nearly unanimous vote.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, prescribes strict regulations around the use of automatic telephone dialing systems or other artificial or prerecorded messages. The bill specifically requires any entity making robocalls to first obtain the consent of those being called. The bill also requires the creation of reliable mechanisms whereby consumers can withdraw their consent.
Emergency services and certain non-commercial entities would be exempt from the new regulations, which would be enforced by the Federal Communications Commission.
If passed, the law would also prohibit phone companies from passing on the cost of robocall enforcement to consumers in the form of line-item charges.
In a joint statement, Pallone and Rep. Greg Walden, Energy and Commerce’s ranking member, and Congressmen Mike Doyle and Bob Latta—the chairman and ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, respectively—said that Wednesday’s vote was aimed at “[restoring] Americans’ confidence in the telephone system and put consumers back in charge of their phones.”
“We’re proud of the strong support our bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act received this afternoon and look forward to working with our colleagues in the Senate to produce a bill that the President can sign into law. The American people are counting on us to help end the robocall epidemic, and we will deliver for them,” the bipartisan group said.
As Gizmodo previously reported, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act was strengthened through several recent amendments. One of them, offered by Congressmen A. Donald McEachin and Pete Olsen, requires the FCC to submit evidence of robocall violations to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution. It further requires the FCC to make those referrals available for public review.
GOP Representatives Andy Biggs and Thomas Massie, as well as Rep. Justin Amash, who quit the Republican party earlier this month, voted against the bill. The lawmakers could not be immediately reached for comment.
The bill will now proceed to the Senate where it has not faced any signs of resistance so far.
This bill is an “important step forward in the fight to stop unwanted and illegal robocalls,” Margot Saunders, senior counsel for National Consumer Law Center, said in a statement of support.
“There’s still more to be done and there is a lot of responsibility placed on the FCC to protect consumers,” she said. “Robocalls plague voters of all political stripes so we are especially pleased to see a bipartisan effort on this bill. We hope this is the first of several positive steps that Congress will take.”