WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to crack down on unwanted commercial robocalls, the U.S. Senate today voted 97 to 1 to pass legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed that will give regulators more time to go after scammers, increase civil penalties, and promote call authentication and blocking technology adoption.
By providing regulators and prosecutors with enhanced tools to track, prosecute, and fine robocallers, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act (S. 151) seeks to help stop harassing robocalls, which Rhode Islanders say is a growing problem. Indeed, according to the YouMail Robocall Index, Rhode Islanders received 11.5 million robocalls last month (April 2019). The report also states that Americans received an estimated 47.8 billion robocalls last year, an increase of 56.8% over the estimated 30.5 billion robocalls in 2017.
Senator Reed applauded bipartisan passage of the TRACED Act, stating: “This is a major step forward to help reduce robocalls. It won’t immediately halt all unwanted robocalls from coming in, but it should help consumers more readily and accurately identify who is actually on the other end of the line. And it will toughen penalties against scammers.”
Several major carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- have indicated they'll adopt new strategies consistent with the TRACED Act.
Identical legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, but has yet to be voted on by the full House.
Summary of the TRACED Act:
• Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.
• Extends the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations to three years after a robocall is placed. Under current law, the FCC has only one year to do so, and the FCC has told the Senate Commerce Committee that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against willful violators.
• Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other relevant federal agencies as well as state attorneys general and other non-federal entities to identify and report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution at the federal and state level of robocall scams.
• Requires voice service providers of to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.
• Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers using unauthenticated numbers.