With federal legislation still pending, Queens official seeks ‘common sense’ way to stop annoying robocalls

Photo credit: Councilman Paul Vallone's office

A northeast Queens councilman wants to put a stop to incessant robocall harassment that plagues New Yorkers daily.

Councilman Paul Vallone highlighted the issue of increased robocall activity during a legislative session at City Hall this week. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 60 percent of complaints to agency involved robocalls and calls have increased by 57 percent over the past year.

The FCC made efforts to reduce robocalls in 2017 and 2018 which included allowing companies to proactively block calls and implementing fines against call “spoofers.” But the relentless calls seem to continue.

Calls are generated from numbers that appear to be from other countries, like Lithuania, the Virgin Islands, Belarus and Senegal or mimic local area codes and phone numbers. Vallone said that the telecom companies are aware of the calls’ origins and can combat and prohibit the calls but have done nothing without forced FCC intervention or laws on the federal, state or local levels.

Vallone said that the FCC has also failed to take proper action and urges telecom companies to take acti0n on their own to tamp down on robocalls. In response to the inaction, Vallone drafted a resolution to Congress to immediately pass the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACE) Act, a bill legally requiring providers to adopt a caller authentication framework.

“Spam calls have exploded to reach an intolerable and unacceptable level and immediate action needs to be taken. If the FCC and telecom companies are going to keep ignoring the problem, then we as legislators must stand up to fight for the privacy and quality of life of New Yorkers. These companies are making billions on the backs of our citizens with no accountability or repercussions for the harassment we face,” said Vallone. “This is as common sense as legislation gets, and I believe we need penalties and fines for telecom companies who knowingly allow our citizens to be plagued and constantly harassed.”

South Dakota Senator John Thune and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey are the bill’s current sponsors. On the city level, Vallone is calling for the City Council to hold a hearing with telecom companies to find out what is being done to protect New Yorkers from robocalls. He is also working with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer to see which features of the TRACE Act can be replicated on the city level.

“This problem will only get worse unless there is a coordinated effort to pinpoint and hold accountable those responsible for the endless onslaught of harassing robocalls,” said Councilman Peter Koo. “The longer this problem is ignored, the more emboldened the callers will be in harassing the citizens of New York City. I join Council Member Vallone in calling for the FCC to take immediate action in order to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

More from Around New York