Bill would drastically reduce robocalls in New York

Legislative Gazette photo by Brendan Roney
At podium Sen. David Carlucci talks about the need for a bill to prevent robocalls in New York. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, at right.

State lawmakers and consumer advocates are taking a stand against robocalls with a new bill to stop automated phone calls from hitting New Yorkers’ phones without their prior consent.

Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, along with consumer advocates, held a press conference in Albany on Tuesday revealing the new Robocall Prevention Act (S.3297-a / A.675-a).

According to Senator Hoylman, ” Robocalls were the top complaint by Americans to the Federal Communications Commission in 2018. In 2018 the highest record of robocalls to Americans was hit, 47.8 billion robocalls were made to American citizens.”

Unwanted robocalls have also disproportionately targeted New Yorkers, as New York City ranks third in the country with more than 162 million robocalls received, and Buffalo ranked 19th with almost 50 million robocalls received, just in February of this year.

These unwanted calls and texts intrude on our privacy and family time, can lead to identity theft and harmful financial scams, and are particularly harmful to low-income/fixed-income households,” said Richard Berkley, executive director of the Public Utility Law Project of New York.

“Robocalls target the elderly and immigrants to scam money from them,” says Assemblywoman Niou. “A caller who claimed to be a Chinese consulate, scammed 3 million last year from Chinese immigrants in my district.”  

This bill would prohibit any person or entity from making robocalls to any telephone number owned by a person in New York state, unless for emergency purposes or with consent of the call recipient. Telephone service providers will also be required to make technology available to their customers that could block unwanted robocalls, free of charge.

This bill also gives the state attorney general new enforcement powers on robocalls and authorizes new civil penalties of up to $2,000 per robocall, up to $20,000 for calls placed in violation of the law within a continuous 72-hour period; and grants New Yorkers a private right of action to go after violators themselves in a court of law.