Construction Industry News

Abusive Robocalls and How We Can Stop Them

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. entitled, “Abusive Robocalls and How We Can Stop Them.” The hearing will examine the problem of malicious spoofing and abusive robocalls designed to defraud consumers, as well as measures being taken by government and industry to protect consumers.

“Abusive robocalls are persistently annoying and at worst they are a means for significant fraud and theft,” said Thune. “Our hearing will examine where such robocalls come from, how they work, and what steps can be taken to identify and deter them from happening.”

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Lois Greisman, Associate Director, Marketing Practices Division, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission
  • Ms. Rosemary Harold, Chief, Enforcement Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Mr. Adrian Abramovich, former President of Marketing Strategy Leaders (dissolved 1/29/2016)
  • Mr. Scott Delacourt, Partner, Wiley Rein LLP and U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative
  • Mr. Kevin Rupy, Vice President, Law and Policy, United States Telecom Association
  • Ms. Margot Saunders, Senior Counsel, National Consumer Law Center

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

<span>Good morning. In the United

Good morning. In the United States Senate, we often have heated disagreements over important issues facing our country.

Even in the Commerce Committee, which has a longstanding tradition of reaching bipartisan compromise when possible, we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to contentious issues.

But today, we’re here to address an issue that I’m sure we can all agree on: unwanted, abusive, and illegal robocalls have got to stop.

Unsolicited robocalls consistently rank among the top consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

Beyond just being annoying, many of those who send out unwanted robocalls do so with the intent to defraud consumers.

As more phone systems move from copper wires to the internet, it has become easier and cheaper for bad actors to make illegal robocalls from anywhere in the world.

These new technologies have also made it easier for scammers to hide from law enforcement and seek to gain their victims’ trust by displaying fake caller ID information.

Known as “spoofing,” this technique allows a fraudulent call to show up on recipients’ caller ID as a number within their area code, or even with many of the same digits as their own phone number – making it appear like a trustworthy local number.

I’m sure that many of us, as well as many of our constituents, have experienced this phenomenon.

The goal of scammers using spoofed robocalls is often to get money out of unsuspecting recipients, and some of their methods can be particularly malicious. For instance, given that yesterday was tax day, one common scam, especially at this time of year, is the “IRS scam.” This scam involves the caller pretending to represent the IRS in order to scare the victim into providing money or personal information to avoid phony tax penalties.

But perhaps the biggest negative effect of the increasing prevalence of unwanted robocalls is that they frustrate recipients to the point that they are less likely to answer legitimate calls.

It’s important to remember that robocalls are not inherently negative. Many important services are carried out via robocall where companies and call recipients have pre-established relationships and where the consumer has agreed to participate in these types of calls.

Indeed, some entities, like hospitals and pharmacies, use robocalls to remind a patient of an upcoming appointment or that a prescription is ready for pick-up. In addition, automakers often use robocalls to warn vehicle owners of urgent safety recalls. Missing calls like these can have life or death consequences for recipients.

Today we have the opportunity to hear from enforcement officials responsible for combatting illegal robocallers and from industry representatives who can speak to new methods for preventing consumers from receiving unwanted calls in the first place.

We also have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Adrian Abramovich who, according to the FCC, allegedly made almost 100 million robocalls in a three-month period in 2016.

On October 10, 2017, the Committee sent Mr. Abramovich a letter of inquiry regarding the FCC’s notice of apparent liability, asking several questions about his conduct. On November 3, 2017, through his counsel, Mr. Abramovich informed the Committee that he would not be providing information in response to the Committee’s inquiry.

This past March, I invited Mr. Abramovich to appear voluntarily at today’s hearing, but, through his counsel, he declined.

In light of Mr. Abramovich’s decision to decline the Committee’s invitation, and refusal to provide information in response to the Committee’s inquiry, a subpoena requiring Mr. Abramovich’s appearance before the Committee was issued.

Mr. Abramovich, your participation at today’s hearing is important. According to the FCC, you allegedly made nearly 100 million robocalls to American consumers purporting to be a well-known travel or hospitality company such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Marriott, or Hilton. If a robocall recipient answered and pressed “1” for more information, the consumer would be directed to a Mexican hotel and resort chain engaged in selling timeshares and vacation packages that had contracted with you, Mr. Abramovich, to receive calls generated by your network.

Mr. Abramovich, I expect that today you will shed some light on your past conduct and provide the Committee with your unique perspective on the technologies and practices behind abusive robocalls. With this information, and that of the second panel, the Committee should better understand this problem and what steps might be necessary to end this abusive practice.

Finally, before I turn to Ranking Member Nelson, I would just note that the recently enacted Omnibus Appropriations bill included Committee-approved legislation he sponsored with Senators Fischer, Klobuchar, Blunt, and Duckworth, to empower the FCC to combat spoofing originating from international locations. We’ll be eager to hear how that new law will be implemented, and what more needs to be done.

I now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for his opening remarks.

Olympic Abuse: The Role of National Governing Bodies in Protecting Our Athletes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 2:30 p.m. entitled, “Olympic Abuse: The Role of National Governing Bodies in Protecting Our Athletes.”

This hearing will provide a forum for survivors of abuse to discuss specific concerns and challenges in preventing abuse within their respective sports. Athletes will also have an opportunity to provide lawmakers with advice on overseeing the implementation of the recently enacted “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017” (P.L. 115-126), authorizing an independent entity to investigate and prevent abuse of athletes.

Witnesses:

To be announced

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.


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Committee Announces Hearing to Examine the State of the Nation’s Maritime Transportation System

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. entitled, “Maritime Transportation: Opportunities and Challenges.” The hearing will focus on the U.S. maritime industry, the state of the nation’s maritime transportation system and its current challenges, and the ways in which Federal policy and programs could enhance its performance. This hearing will also inform the upcoming reauthorization of the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Witnesses: 

  • The Honorable Mark H. Buzby, USN, Ret., Administrator, Maritime Administration
  • The Honorable Michael Khouri, Acting Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission
  • Rear Admiral James Helis, USMS, Superintendent, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
  • Mr. Craig Middlebrook, Deputy Administrator, Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation 

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
2:30 p.m
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

<p>Today we will consider the

Today we will consider the nomination of Vice Admiral Karl Schultz to be promoted to Admiral and to become the 26th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard has had a tremendous year by all accounts.  As our nation’s smallest armed service, it has repeatedly shown its value to the American people.  The Coast Guard yielded record results last year in its mission to combat the flow of illegal narcotics by transnational criminal organizations.  In total, the Coast Guard interdicted more than $6.6 billion worth of cocaine and other drugs before they could reach our shores, while apprehending more than 600 smugglers for prosecution.

This past fall, we experienced one of the most catastrophic hurricane seasons on record.  Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and southeastern United States, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Nate along the Gulf Coast caused an unprecedented $200 billion in damages.  This eclipsed the previous record of $159 billion, which we experienced in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina.

And yet, for every storm that battered our shores, the Coast Guard answered the call, surging personnel from all over the country to provide relief to affected communities.  The Coast Guard estimates that the heroic actions by the men and women helped save more than 11,000 lives.

Despite these noteworthy results, there are numerous challenges ahead for the service as it continues to take on more and more responsibility.  We are seeing significant increases in vessel traffic in the Arctic as opening waterways offer new commercial opportunities for the maritime industry.  The Coast Guard will be relied upon for search and rescue, fisheries management, and environmental enforcement in these hazardous waters.

Currently, the Coast Guard is performing its missions with antiquated equipment and aging ships that are in constant danger of breaking down. The Coast Guard’s sole heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, was commissioned in 1967 and is a single point of failure for U.S. presence in the Arctic.  Other legacy assets, such as the High Endurance Cutters and the Inland River Tenders, are more than 40 and 50 years old.

The Coast Guard is in the midst of a major recapitalization effort.  It is Congress’s responsibility to assist in this effort and provide our smallest armed service with adequate resources to meet increasing demands.

I am pleased to report that the Senate will finally be considering the Coast Guard Authorization Act during this work period.  Members from both sides of the aisle worked to pass this bill through the Committee last June.  After more than 10 months, it is well past time that we move forward with this important piece of legislation.  This bill would provide the Coast Guard with the programmatic authorities necessary to address future challenges.

Vice Admiral Karl Schultz is well-qualified to lead the Coast Guard during this critical and challenging time.  Throughout his 35 years of service, he has proven to be a trustworthy and capable leader.  As the Atlantic Area Commander, Vice Admiral Schultz oversees all Coast Guard operations from the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf.  He also serves as Commander, Defense Force East, where he is responsible for providing Coast Guard mission support to the Department of Defense and the Combatant Commanders.  His personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, four Legions of Merit, four Meritorious Service Medals, three Coast Guard Commendation medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, and numerous others. 

So, Admiral Schultz, we thank you for testifying today and look forward to you continuing to serve our country.

Nomination Hearing

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) will convene a nomination hearing at 10:00 a.m. onTuesday, April 17, 2018 to consider the presidents nomination for Coast Guard Commandant.

Completed nomination questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations

Witness:

  • Vice Admiral Karl L. Schultz to be promoted to Admiral and to be Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

Hearing Details:

Thursday, April 17, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Key Lawmaker Seeks Probe of FAA’s Handling of Safety Issues Involving Allegiant Air

WASHINGTON – The top Democrat on the Senate panel that oversees the airlines is calling for an investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) handling of safety-related incidents involving low-cost carrier Allegiant Air.

The request comes on the heels of a scathing report aired last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes that raised questions about Allegiant’s safety record after finding the airline had more than 100 mechanical issues between January 2016 and October 2017.  

In a letter sent today to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said the FAA’s potential lack of oversight warrants scrutiny.

“The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant,” Nelson wrote.  “Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences.”

60 Minutes’ examination is not the first time Allegiant’s maintenance issues have come under fire.  

 The Tampa Bay Times initiated its own investigation in 2015 and found that the airline had to make 77 unexpected landings that year due to “serious mechanical failures.”  The Times also reported that Allegiant was “four times as likely to make unexpected landings after midair mechanical problems than other U.S. airlines.”

 In September 2016, The Washington Post reported that Allegiant had a “relatively large number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents and emergency landings” from January 2015 through March 2016.

In response to these earlier incidents, Nelson included language in the Senate’s version of the FAA bill last year that would require the agency to report to Congress annually on all commercial airline safety incidents and the steps taken to address them   The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation next month.

The text of Nelson’s letter to DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III is below.  Click here for a pdf of the letter. 

  

April 16, 2018

 

The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel, III

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC  20590

 

Dear Mr. Scovel: 

 This past Sunday, CBS’ 60 Minutes program aired a report that raised serious questions about the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of Allegiant Air.  

60 Minutes reported that Allegiant experienced over 100 serious mechanical incidents between January 2016 and October 2017.  The report suggested that Allegiant’s business model, older aircraft and poor safety culture have led to this high number of incidents.  When combined with a 2015 change in FAA enforcement policy, the implication was that Allegiant has not been subject to proper scrutiny or penalty.

Unfortunately, this is not the first report of serious safety concerns with Allegiant’s operations.  

In 2016, the Tampa Bay Times and Washington Post separately reported on aborted take offs and unexpected landings due to mechanical failures on Allegiant’s aging aircraft.  

In response, I included language in the Senate FAA bill last year that would require the agency to report to Congress annually on all commercial airline safety incidents and the steps taken to address them.   The Senate is expected to vote on that measure next month.

The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant.  Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences.   

Therefore, I request you conduct a full audit or investigation into the FAA’s current policies regarding enforcement actions, its role in working with airlines to correct noncompliance issues and how the agency identifies larger trends that may be the result of specific incidents.  I urge you to specifically review all internal communications between the FAA and Allegiant to ensure that no efforts are being undertaken to impede a full and forthright investigation of the airline’s maintenance and operational issues.  

Given the critical implications your findings may have with regard to aviation safety, I urge you to expedite this review.  I appreciate your prompt attention to this request.

 

Sincerely,

Commerce Committee Announces Hearing to Examine the Problem of Abusive Robocalls

“Abusive robocalls are persistently annoying and at worst they are a means for significant fraud and theft,” said Thune. “Our hearing will examine where such robocalls come from, how they work, and what steps can be taken to identify and deter them from happening.”

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