House Commerce Committee Approves Truth in Caller ID Act

March 10, 2010. The House Commerce Committee (HCC) amended and approved HR 1258 [LOC | WW], the "Truth In Caller ID Act Of 2010", by voice vote. See, amendment in the nature of a substitute [4 pages in PDF].

The bill does not require truth in caller ID information. Callers would remain free to block caller ID information. Callers would remain free to transmit false caller ID information, provided it is not with intent to defraud. And, law enforcement and intelligence agencies would remain free to do whatever they choose with caller ID information.

Overview of Pending Bills. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) introduced this bill on March 3, 2009. The HCC's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet (SCTI) marked up HR 1258 on October 8, 2009. See, bill [4 pages in PDF] as adopted by the Subcommittee, and story titled "House Communications Subcommittee Approves Truth in Caller ID Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,000, October 9, 2009.

The companion bill to HR 1258 in the Senate is S 30 [LOC | WW], also titled the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009". Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced it on January 7, 2009. The Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) amended and approved it on November 2, 2009. The full Senate amended and approved it on February 23, 2010.

These two Commerce Committee bills are different. However, both deal with caller ID spoofing by amending the Communications Act.

There is also a House bill that would address the same problem by amending the Criminal Code.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-NC) introduced HR 1110 [LOC | WW], the "Preventing Harassment through Outbound Number Enforcement Act of 2009", or "PHONE Act", on February 23, 2009. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), which amended and approved it on October 7, 2009. See, House Report No. 111-321. The full House passed it on December 16, 2009. See, story titled "House Passes PHONE Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,025, December 18, 2009.

Summary of HR 1258. HR 1258, as approved by the HCC on March 10, would amend 47 U.S.C. 227 to provide that "It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States, in connection with any real time voice communications service, regardless of the technology or network utilized, to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive".

In addition, the bill provides that it does not "prevent or restrict any person from blocking the capability of any caller ID service to transmit caller ID information".

That is, the bill does not make caller ID spoofing illegal. It only reaches spoofing that is also done with intent to defraud or deceive.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) explained in his opening statement [PDF] that "This legislation recognizes that there are legitimate business services that change caller ID information and directs the FCC to implement rules in a fashion that allows such services to continue, while making fraudulent and deceptive caller ID manipulation unlawful."

Also, there is an exception for any authorized "investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency", federal, state or local, any U.S. intelligence agency, and any activity authorized under 18 U.S.C. 3521-3528, which pertains to protection of witnesses.

The bill directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to write implementing regulations.

Robocalls. The bill also directs the FCC to use this rulemaking proceeding to examine its regulations regarding restrictions on the use of automated telephone equipment.

The bill directs the FCC to determine whether its regulations "should be revised to require calls that are not made for a commercial purpose to residential telephone lines using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message to transmit caller ID information that is not misleading or inaccurate".

The bill does not reference any section of the Code of Federal Regulations, any FCC order, or any FCC proceeding.

However, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on January 20, 2010, that contains draft rules. The FCC released the text [37 pages in PDF] of this NPRM on January 22, 2010. This NPRM is FCC 10-08 in CG Docket No. 02-278. See also, story titled "FCC Adopts NPRM Regarding Limiting Some Robocalls" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,037, January 20, 2010.

Caller ID Bills in Prior Congresses. Finally, it should be noted that the Congress worked on the problem of caller ID spoofing in the 109th and 110th Congresses, without enacting a statute.

For the 110th Congress, see S 704 [LOC | WW] the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007", and HR 251 [LOC | WW], also titled the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2007". See also, stories titled "Senate Commerce Committee Approves Caller ID Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,604, June 29, 2007, and "House Approves Caller ID Spoofing Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,594, June 13, 2007. The full House passed its bill, HR 251. The Senate did not pass the House bill. The SCC, but not the full Senate, approved S 704.

For the 109th Congress, see HR 5126, the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2006", which the House, but not the Senate, passed.