Our View: Robocall bill could help eliminate big annoyance

May 1, 2019

Annoyed because half the calls on your cell phone are robocalls?

It’s a factual number, cited as a new piece of strongly bipartisan legislation to combat these annoying calls moved through Congress earlier this month. Others say the number of calls is different, maybe only one-third of the total number of calls to cellphones.

But why quibble? There’s no argument that the number of calls is growing, the caller tactics are unethical and that robocalls are a frustrating annoyance.

Can a new law do what the federal do-not-call registry and cell phone giants have not? Maybe not, but the law would bring some strong reinforcements to this ongoing fight.

The new bill, which passed a key Senate committee and enjoys widespread support, would require cell phone carriers to add extra authentication to calls, allowing phone users to see who exactly is calling and whether it is a verified number. The verification is aimed at the relatively new tactic of spoofing, in which telemarketers hide their real numbers and show a phone one more likely to be accepted.

The cell carriers already have blocking apps that allow one level of protection. These services supplement those of the do-not-call registry which was designed to reduce unwanted telemarketing calls in general.

The robocall operators apparently aren’t worried about prosecution. The phone equipment to robocall is cheap. Those running these services can call thousands of phone numbers very quickly, annoying them all but getting a precious few to pick up and hear the pitch.

Anyone hoping the automated calls would die down after the fall elections (politicians exempted themselves from the telemarketing laws) is out of luck. The cheap cost of starting new operations and lack of strong enforcement of existing laws means the calls keep increasing.

The proposed new law, through its authentication provision, puts the burden on the cell phone giants to monitor and verify the caller. Though we don’t wish extra regulation on any business, this approach seems practical and more likely to produce a good result than expecting robocall operators to self-identify.

The new bill looks like an example of Congress actually working together to address a common problem. We hope the measure passes.

— Today’s News-Herald