There may be new relief for consumers who are plagued by robocalls.
Even if you’ve signed up for the Do Not Call registry, your phone probably rings with plenty of unwanted calls.
And if you’re not careful, the calls may cost you more than your time.
Consumers lose more than $350 million a year to phone scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which received more than 3 million complaints about such calls just last year.
And advocacy group Consumers Union estimates that overseas scammers have been fined more than $1.2 billion from Do Not Call registry violations, but it said the FTC has only been able to collect less than 9 percent of the fines.
That’s pretty solid proof that the Do Not Call list isn’t enough.
Over the years, our readers have asked why the phone providers aren’t doing all that much to help block unwanted calls. It really depends on the provider — more on that in a moment — but there’s new legislation that would force telecom companies to act.
The “Repeated Objectionable Bothering Of Consumers On Phones” Act — or ROBOCOP — was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this month by Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California.
“ROBOCOP will put an end to the scourge of robocalls so families can enjoy dinner in peace, people can watch their favorite show without constant interruption, and you won’t ever be left wondering if you actually won a Caribbean cruise,” Speier said at the press conference announcing the legislation.
H.R. 4932 bill would require telecom companies to offer consumers free optional robocall blocking technology, which consumer advocates say is a long time in coming.
Telecoms would also be required to label and block calls with fake caller ID. You know, “spoofed” calls, such as the ones where caller ID says the call is coming from Washington D.C. or the IRS, but it’s a phony.
That kind of technology exists, but it’s not widely available. That would change with the ROBOCOP Act.
If the bill passes, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would have 18 months to require businesses offer the technology.
Emergency robocalls and those consumers want, such as from school or pharmacy auto-notification systems, would still work with the call-blocking systems.
The legislation is supported by the Consumer Federation of America.
Consumers Union, which has actively been fighting to help consumers on this issue with its End Robocalls campaign, is also on board. The group has gotten the support of more than 600,000 consumers for the campaign.
“Robocalls have become epidemic but the phone companies have been slow to provide their frustrated customers with relief,” said Consumers Union’s Tim Marvin. “This bill will ensure that phone companies take action and provide consumers with the tools they need to stop being harassed by unwanted calls that ring day and night.”
While this bill would force the telecoms to provide call blocking technology, our readers have wondered why telecoms haven’t taken action on their own.
We got answers from some of the companies last year.
Our readers have loved Nomorobo, and it may be available to you, too. Check it out.
Verizon FiOs Digital Voice customers can also sign up for Nomorobo, and the company offers a few other options.
“We monitor our networks to block many robocalls from ever reaching our customers and work with law enforcement and other telephone companies to shut down illegal robocallers,” said Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville. “We also have a number of call blocking tools available for wireless and wireline customers to help further prevent robocalls.”
AT&T didn’t respond to our requests.
Let us know about your successes and failures when it comes to stopping robocalls. And if you support the ROBOCOP Act, be sure to contact your legislators to ask for their support.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.