05.23.19

Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Illegal Robocalls Passes Senate

TRACED Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil penalties for those caught, promotes call authentication

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today cheered Senate passage of legislation he cosponsored to crack down on disruptive illegal robocalls.  In a 97-1 vote, the Senate approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which is sponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD).

“In addition to being a persistent nuisance, robocalls can lead to data theft and financial fraud,” said Whitehouse.  “I’m pleased that this legislation to provide some relief from illegal robocalls is on its way to becoming law with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Amid ever-increasing numbers of robocall scams, the TRACED Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws.

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 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 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.

One report estimates that the number of spam calls will grow from 30 percent of all phone calls last year to 42 percent of all calls this year. 

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