Supreme Court backs robocall ban, but that won't stop them

The United States Supreme Court put into black-and-white what Americans have known since the first ring: robocalls should be banned.

"Americans disagree on lots, but they're united in their disdain for robocalls," Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a ruling released Monday that left in place a ban on robocalls under the 1991 Consumer Protection Act.

The Supreme Court said not only are debt collectors not allowed to place robocalls, but neither are political groups.

The court said allowing one and not the other was wrong, so it kept a ban on all such calls on the books.

"The effect this could have had was endless robocalls and texts," said Tampa attorney Billy Howard, who sues robocall companies. "And now that is not going to happen."

But the ban isn't flawless.

In 2019 alone, robocall tracker YouMail, which also has an application that helps consumers block robocalls, says Americans got 58.5 billion robocalls.

The FCC says it got 3.7 million complaints.

How do so many still get through? For starters, it's extremely cheap and easy to use computers to dial, and even easier to hide where they're coming from, says the head of YouMail, Alex Quilici.

"There are websites out there where you can upload some audio, say here's a number connect calls to when they press one. Give them a list of phone numbers, give a prepaid debit card, hit a button and you are off and calling Tampa Bay for a few hundred dollars."

The coronavirus has slowed robocalls to Floridians, from 360 million in February to 230 million in April.  

Howard has won settlements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars against robocallers who violate the 1991 Consumer Protection Act.

"Hopefully this will embolden some consumers to come forward and say I am getting these also," said Howard. "And then we can go after them."