No more robocalls? A Minnesota lawmaker wants phone companies to block them
ST. PAUL — A state lawmaker said he wants to block predatory robocalls from getting through to Minnesotans' phones.
Rep. Zack Stephenson, D-Coon Rapids, on Monday, Oct. 14, said he'd drafted legislation aimed at requiring phone companies to block robocalls at no price to customers and offer legal remedies for Minnesotans scammed as a result of robocalls.
Minnesotans have received more than 387 million robocalls so far this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. That breaks down to about 58 calls per person in 2019.
Stephenson said he wrote the legislation, which is believed to be the toughest in the country, ahead of the 2020 legislative session after hearing concerns about the automated calls from several constituents. His measure takes an "everything and the kitchen sink approach" to addressing the problem, he said.
"These calls aren't just obnoxious, for senior citizens and other vulnerable populations they are a significant source of fraud," Stephenson said. "Minnesotans are ready for this robocall madness to stop. We have the tools to make that happen. It's time to put them to work."
There is technology out there to block calls originating from other countries that appear as a local phone number, Stephenson said. And while some phone companies are using it now, all telecommunications companies should be blocking the fake calls and eating the cost for the technology rather than passing it to the consumer, he said.
Stephenson said he hadn't yet reached out to telecommunications companies about the legislation but he felt they would be interested in applying the scam call filtering to avoid another facet of the bill, potential litigation if consumers become victims of identity theft or swindling through the robocalls.
The legislation would also give Minnesotans scammed by the phony callers a venue to sue their phone companies if the robocalls are allowed to get through to them.
“We don’t need to have our days interrupted by robocalls," Chair of the House Commerce Committee Rep. Laurie Halverson, D-Eagan, said, "and we do not have to have our vulnerable populations in Minnesota being fleeced by these folks."
The measure had the support of House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, and Gov. Tim Walz on Monday told reporters that he was open to the legislation. Stephenson would need to gain the support of Senate Republicans, who hold a majority in that chamber, to pass the bill in 2020.