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FRAZER – March 21, 2019 – At the request of state Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing today on ways to curb robocalls.

The panel discussed legislative solutions to restrict and reduce robocalls, which are automated, recorded phone advertisements.

“Of the estimated 47.8 billion robocalls made in the U.S. in 2018, 17.7 billion were scam robocalls, perpetuating well known scams around topics like health insurance, interest rates, student loans, and IRS debts,” said Sarah Frasch, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission reported that it received 4.5 million public complaints about robocalls – up from 3.4 million the previous year.

“Apart from robocalls being annoying and intrusive, it is estimated that 40 percent of these calls are scams,” Dinniman said. “The explosive growth of robocalls cries out for a legislative remedy that would step up enforcement, improve authentication and give consumers a simple means to block these calls.”

Dinniman has introduced legislation (Senate Bill 306) that would enable consumers to opt-out of robocalls, prohibit such calls on holidays, require telemarketers to give consumers easy opt-out options, and crack down on scams and deceptive technology that enables telemarketers to mimic local phone numbers.

“The industry is working with stakeholders and regulators to solve the problem using a technology solution referred to as Shaken/Stir,” said Stuart Discount, CEO of the Professional Association for Customer Engagement. The SHAKEN/STIR solution allows robocalls being conducted for legitimate business and market research companies to be authenticated, and for those abusing robocalls or calling those on ‘Do Not Call Lists’ to not be transmitted to consumers, he explained.

Gerard Keegan, speaking on behalf of CTIA, the trade association for the wireless communications industry (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) spoke about SHAKEN/STIR, “Such a system is critical to protecting consumers from “spoofed” robocalls, which scam artists often use to trick consumers into answering their phones.”

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton), who chairs the committee, added, “Rallying public and legislative support behind combatting robocalls will be the easy part. The difficulty will come with finding workable solutions that specifically curb robocalls without hampering reasonable and legitimate ways to reach consumers.”

Sen. Tim Kearney (D- Chester/Delaware) was also in attendance for the duration of the hearing.

Those who testified included:

Constituent Panel

Karen Cavin, Jordan Norley, Jim Salvas and Wendy Silverwood

Advocacy and Oversight Panel

  • Sarah Frasch, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Office of the Attorney General;
  • Stuart Discount, CEO of Professional Association for Customer Engagement; and
  • Joanne Grossi, State President AARP Pennsylvania

Telecommunications Panel

  • Steven Samara, President of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association;
  • Gerard Keegan – Vice President of Legislative Affairs, CTIA;
  • Frank Buzydlowski, Director of Pennsylvania Governmental Affairs Verizon; and
  • David Kerr, Director of External Affairs AT&T Pennsylvania.

 

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