To close out business in 2019, President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill meant to deter companies from making illegal robocalls. "This historic legislation will provide American consumers with even greater protection against annoying unsolicited robocalls," the White House Office of the Press Secretary said of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (“TRACED”). The move targets companies and individuals who have collectively placed billions of unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services.
Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and cosponsor of the bill, pointed to its bipartisan support in a statement earlier this month anticipating the President's signature. "I have yet to meet someone who says they enjoy receiving those unwanted and illegal robocalls that plague our phones, whether we're at home, at work, or in the car, which is why the TRACED Act takes several important steps in the fight to curb this scourge," he said. He called the measure "a significant win for consumers in every corner of the country, and it finally and officially puts illegal robocallers on notice." Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey said that, by passing the legislation, the Senate "sent Americans a holiday gift on everyone's list: stopping the plague of robocalls."
“This bipartisan bill unquestionably moves the ball forward to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls, especially by requiring that all telephone systems in the U.S. implement a coordinated authentication methodology to improve the accuracy of the caller-ID displayed on our phones,” said National Consumer Law Center Senior Counsel Margot Saunders.
The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act will:
- Require the implementation of a comprehensive caller-ID authentication program that will inform called parties whether the caller ID displayed with incoming calls is accurate;
- Require that the FCC ensure that consumers who receive telephone service from smaller, often rural providers, benefit from an authentication service.
- Require the FCC to allow providers to employ a “robocall blocking” methodology for unauthenticated calls.
- Prohibit telephone providers from separately billing for either the authentication and blocking services.
- Require that the FCC initiate a proceeding to evaluate how to require voice providers that provide multiple phone numbers to callers (such as Skype and Google Voice) know their customers — which is important to stop robocallers from cycling through numerous numbers to avoid detection.
- Enhance the FCC’s enforcement mechanisms.
- Require a variety of reports from the FCC and establish a number of working groups.
Signing this bill into law is an important step forward to provide Americans some relief from the plague of robocalls. Attention now turns to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which still has to issue long awaited regulations interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and should do so broadly in order to show that the federal government is serious about cracking down on telemarketers, debt collectors, and others who are bombarding our phones with unwanted robocalls.