President Trump this week signed the anti-robocall TRACED Act into law, supporting bipartisan legislative efforts to beat back the flood of robocalls that plague Americans daily.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate each passed the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act earlier this month. It gives the Federal Communications Commission greater enforcement authority against illegal robocallers, and requires voice service providers to implement call authentication technology.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised passage of the new law and the added flexibility given to the agency.
“I applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing. And I thank the President and Congress for the additional tools and flexibility that this law affords us,” said Pai in a statement. “Specifically, I am glad that the agency now has a longer statute of limitations during which we can pursue scammers, and I welcome the removal of a previously-required warning we had to give to unlawful robocallers before imposing tough penalties.”
Under the new anti-robocall statute, the FCC can now extend the statute of limitations by up to four years in some cases, and can go after first-time scammers. In hopes of deterring illegal robocalls, the FCC is also allowed to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call in certain instances.
Although the FCC has issued fines against robocallers before, it’s struggled to actually collect on penalties. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel previously called out this problem, pointing to a Wall street Journal report that found out of more than $208 million in fines levied by the FCC on robocallers, it had collected just $6,790.
The new law also targets the issue of spoofing, where sometimes legitimate phone numbers are high-jacked and used by illegal callers. To help verify calls, service providers are required to implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework, and offer robocall blocking services at no additional charge to consumers.
Most major carriers already offer some level of call-blocking service, and earlier this year AT&T and T-Mobile collaborated to deliver STIR/SHAKEN technology that works across both of their networks.
The FCC will also review its own measures against robocallers, and report to Congress about, among other things, the amount of robocall complaints it receives. The bill also encourages, as CTIA noted, a “whole” of government approach to fighting against unwanted robocalls at both the federal and state level.
Most everyone can relate to the annoyance of robocalls, and as scammers become increasingly sophisticated, legislative action against the deluge garnered broad support from both industry and lawmakers.
“I thank the American people for never letting us forget how fed up they are with scam, spoofed robocalls. It’s their voices that power our never-ceasing push to fight back against the scourge of robocalls and malicious spoofing,” Pai said.
The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and CTIA wireless industry trade groups each praised the bill, which was also endorsed by AARP.
“We applaud the President’s efforts to protect consumers by signing the TRACED Act. This landmark legislation will help protect consumers from illegal robocalls by removing barriers and enhancing the FCC’s authority to stop this activity at the source,” said CTIA President & CEO, Meredith Attwell Baker in a statement. “This is a priority for our members, and we thank Senators Thune and Markey and Representatives Pallone and Walden for their bipartisan leadership on this bill, which acknowledges the importance of the wireless industry’s efforts to implement call authentication, and allow providers to be more proactive in blocking illegal calls.”