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Schumer wants tougher penalties for 'Do Not Call' violations

Sen. Charles Schumer announces the Commuter Benefits Equity

Sen. Charles Schumer announces the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, which would extend federal mass transit benefits that are currently scheduled to expire January 1st. (Nov. 11, 2013) Credit: Nancy Borowick

Annoying phone messages from spammers and scammers prompted a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer to increase penalties for companies breaking the "Do Not Call" rules.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday in a news conference at his Manhattan office that while the Do Not Call restrictions, enacted in 2003, cut down on interrupting telemarketers and robocalls, complaints still are rising thanks to the increase in cellphone use and technology that lets a person easily send out a prerecorded message to many numbers.

"This problem is actually worse today than it was before," Schumer said.

The Federal Trade Commission, which manages the National Do Not Call Registry, saw a fivefold increase in complaints during the past two years, to roughly 200,000 a month in 2012, Schumer said. The calls can come from legitimate companies selling a product or be an attempt by a scammer to get personal information.

Violating the law is a misdemeanor and carries a penalty up to $10,000. Schumer's bill would make phone spamming a felony and carry a $20,000 fine for each call that violates the robocalling ban.

"A $10,000 penalty is nothing for a major corporation or a big operation," Schumer said. "These harsher penalties won't be for everyone; they'll be for the worst repeat offenders and people who know the rules and violate them with abandon."

The senator also called on the FTC to work with carriers to publicize apps that can filter out robocalls. Schumer highlighted the work of Aaron Foss of Port Jefferson, whose app Nomorobo was the winner of an FTC competition for programs that filter out spam calls.

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