By a unanimous voice vote yesterday, the Senate passed S. 151, the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, sending the bill to President Trump for his signature, which is expected to happen.
The bill extends the statute of limitations for potential violations to four years and gives the Federal Communications Commission the power to assess larger fines on individuals or companies deemed to have violated the law, also requires implementation of the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication protocols at no additional charge to consumers, and creates an inter-agency working group to study whether additional penalties are needed to stop robocalls.
“This bill represents a unique legislative effort that is not only bipartisan at its core, but it’s nearly unanimously supported in Congress,” Sen. John Thune [R-S.D.] said in a statement. “Most importantly, this is a significant win for consumers in every corner of the country, and it finally and officially puts illegal robocallers on notice. While no process is perfect, I’m glad we were able to work together with Republicans and Democrats, senators and members of the House to reach this important compromise, which, once signed into law, will begin to make an important down payment on the fight against illegal robocalls.”
The House of Representatives had previously approved the bipartisan bicameral revamped bill earlier this month by a vote of 417-3.
Sen. Rand Paul [R-Ky.], had expressed a possible intention to block the bill’s passage in the Senate, largely because of the increased burden the proposed legislation would put on debt collectors, according to a published report.
Among the provisions of the bill are:
- Broadens the authority of the 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 four 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 violators.
- Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission, 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.
- Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking process to protect consumers from “one-ring” scams.
- Requires the FCC to establish a working group to issue best practices to prevent hospitals from receiving illegal robocalls.