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USTelecom Legislative Report – July 22, 2020

Yesterday, the Senate Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection held a hearing entitled, “Protecting Americans from COVID-19 Scams.”  The hearing examined the rise of scams that are occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Witness:

  • Mr. Andrew Smith, Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission
  • Mr. Derek Schmidt, Attorney General, State of Kansas
  • Mr. Stu Sjouwerman, Founder and CEO, KnowBe4, Inc.
  • Ms. Catherine Hermsen, Assistant Commissioner of Criminal Investigations, Food and Drug Administration (witness will participate in writing).

Video of the hearing and witness testimony can be found here:
https://www.commerce.senate.gov/2020/7/subcommittee-to-hold-hearing-on-covid-19-scams

  • In Mr. Andrew Smith’s opening statement he praised USTelecom’s Industry Tracedback Group as being a “invaluable”  partner in leading us to the source of illegal robocalls.

Republican Interest and Concerns:

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS), submitted for the record a letter from USTelecom outlining the work USTelecom’s Industry Tracedbacked Group has done in combatting illegal robocalls.

Full Committee Chairman Roger Wicker inquired if the FTC needs additional resources that could be made part of the next COVID package to combat COVID-19 scams?  The FTC noted that they have enough resources for their needs, but that Congress could give the FTC clear authority that would allow the FTC to return money to consumers when fraudulent activities take place.  In addition, the FTC urged reauthorization of the SAFE Web Act which among other things allows the FTC to work with international governments to combat illegal scams, including illegal robocalls, which mostly originate from overseas.

Senator Capito noted that the lack of broadband is hurting the ability for federal and state agencies to educate consumers on the risk of COVID-19 scams.  In response to her concern, Derek Schmidt  acknowledged that his agency struggles with how to reach consumers not connected to broadband.

Democratic Interest and Concerns

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pushed the panel to support federal privacy legislation and then spoke about the need for individual privacy for contract tracing apps during the pandemic. He mentioned that he sent a letter, along with Chairman Moran, to the FTC asking for stronger action on scams during this pandemic: https://www.moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/4/sens-moran-blumenthal-seek-answers-from-ftc-on-price-gouging-amid-covid-19.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke about the need to protect seniors and plugged her legislation, the Emergency Scams Act, which was introduced with Senator Moran, in May: https://www.klobuchar.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/news-releases?ID=93537FE4-A343-4CF2-BC04-226889B52D3A.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke about the importance of protecting individual data during the pandemic and the need for federal privacy legislation. She asked Andrew Smith what steps congress could take to help the agency fight scams, including if it would be helpful for the FTC to have a price gauging statute for the agency to move forward, he agreed that it would.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Trevor Jones [email protected], Paul Raak [email protected] or anyone on the USTelecom Government Affairs team.