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Gov. Kathy Hochul signs bills targeting unwanted robocalls

Two bills signed Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul

Two bills signed Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul require telecommunications companies doing business in the state to block unwanted robocalls. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a pair of bills Monday requiring telecommunications companies to screen and block unwanted robocalls.

The bills require phone companies to block robocalls from certain numbers while requiring internet service providers to utilize an authentication system to validate that a call is coming from the number displayed.

Noncompliant companies will be subject to a $10,000 fine or up to $100,000 per offense. The bills take effect immediately.

"New Yorkers are fed up with annoying, predatory robocalls, and we're taking action to stop them," Hochul said in a statement. "This legislation will enable telecom companies to prevent these calls from coming in the first place, as well as empower our state government to ensure that voice service providers are validating who is making these calls so enforcement action can be taken against bad actors."

What to know

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a pair of bills Monday requiring telecommunications companies to screen and block unwanted robocalls.
  • The bills require phone companies to block robocalls from certain numbers and requiring internet service providers to use an authentication system to validate that a call is coming from the number displayed.  
  • Noncompliant companies will be subject to a $10,000 fine or up to $100,000 per offense. 

The first bill, sponsored by State Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D-Rochester) and Assemb. Amy Paulin (D-Westchester), codifies provisions of a rule released by the Federal Communications Commission in 2017, and which took effect in June, permitting companies to proactively block nuisance calls from certain numbers.

Some of the calls are likely illegitimate because they emanate from numbers that do not or cannot make outgoing calls, officials said. These types of numbers are indicative of "spoofing" schemes in which the caller's identity is masked behind a fake, invalid number, the governor's office said.

"Robocalls are disruptive, pervasive, and serve no benefit to families and communities," Cooney said. "Blocking spam and robocalls can protect vulnerable consumer populations from predatory practices, in particular our seniors who have been targeted by scammers during the pandemic. Stopping as many illegitimate calls as possible will help New Yorkers feel safe when using their phones.

The second bill, sponsored by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), builds on federal law and requires voice services providers to implement the FCC's "STIR/SHAKEN" protocol, which uses cryptography to verify that a call is from the number it displays.

The technology, officials said, makes it easier to trace illegal calls to the source — each call will have an identification assigned to it — and allows state utility regulators to take enforcement action against the perpetrators.

Unwanted calls, including illegal and spoofed robocalls, are the FCC's top consumer complaint, agency officials said. These include complaints from consumers whose numbers are being spoofed or whose calls are being mistakenly blocked or labeled as a possible scam call by a robocall blocking app or service.

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