U.S. Senate Passes Anti-Robocall Bill with Sweeping Majority

The legislation would give regulators more time and tools — like financial penalties up to $10,000 per call — to go after predatory robocalls. The bill cleared the Senate with a 97 to 1 vote.

by Wendy Holdren, The Register-Herald / May 24, 2019
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The U.S. Senate passed Thursday the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which aims to help stop and deter illegal and predatory robocalls.

The bill would give regulators more time to find scammers, increase civil forfeiture penalties for those caught, promote call authentication and blocking adoption, and bring relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally ignore the law.

The bill passed the Senate, 97 to 1, and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“I hear from so many West Virginians about annoying and misleading robocalls,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. “I’m proud we have delivered a solution in the TRACED Act with broad, bipartisan support. Robocalls are more than a nuisance; they’re dangerous and predatory. Increasing penalties and giving the appropriate authorities more tools to go after these bad actors is a no-brainer.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., added, "Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, we as Americans can all agree on one thing — Spam and robocalls are just absolutely awful. I am glad that my colleagues have come together to pass legislation to give FCC and other federal agencies the resources they need to finally reduce calls like these, which have increased year after year."

Specifically, the TRACED Act would:

  • Broaden the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.
  • Extend 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.
  • Bring together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, 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.
  • Require providers of voice services to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.
  • Direct the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers using unauthenticated numbers.

©2019 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.