An Arkansas House committee has advanced a bill that would increase the penalty for robocalls and makes the act of spoofing a phone number illegal in the state. Current law charges someone behind a robocall with a Class B misdemeanor. Under the proposed legislation, both robocalls and spoofing would be a Class D felony.
The House Insurance and Commerce Committee heard the Senate bill on Wednesday. The legislation defines spoofing as "the predominant means by which a robocaller protects their identities and entices customers to answer the telephone."
Rep. Clint Penzo, R-Springdale, presented the bill to the committee and recounted one of his own experiences with spoofing.
"My face pops up on my own phone and when that happened, I pulled over in Ozark, called someone at the AG’s office, sent them a screenshot and said, 'I just called myself six times. This is getting ridiculous and we need to do something about it,'" Penzo said.
According to Penzo, robocalls are the number one complaint to the Arkansas Attorney General’s office.
The bill holds telecommunication companies like AT&T accountable for these robocalls. Service providers that are found to not be actively trying to stop such calls could be held criminally responsible. When asked whether or not the bill would harm telecommunication companies, Chuck Harder, deputy attorney general for Arkansas, said it could be helpful marketing wise.
"Wireless communications is a competitive environment, and it’s important to people not to have these annoying calls. If they can get out and demonstrate that they’re doing all they can do and the state of Arkansas has verified they’re doing all they can do, they can actually use this as a marketing tool to demonstrate how progressive they are," Harder said.
The bill passed by a voice vote with no audible dissent. It now heads to the House for a final vote. If passed, it goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.