As expected, President Donald Trump signed the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law on December 30, 2019.
The 44-page measure combined the Senate-passed TRACED Act with the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act passed in the House.
The TRACED Act broadens the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to combat illegal robocalls, in part by amending the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Among the key features, the TRACED Act expands the FCC’s authority to levy additional penalties of up to $10,000 per call for those who knowingly violate the law and extends the statute of limitations to four years for violations of the TCPA’s robocalling prohibitions found to be intentional and for caller ID spoofing violations. The law also allows the FCC to punish those who initiate illegal robocalls or violate the TCPA’s caller ID spoofing restrictions the first time a violation occurs.
Pursuant to the new law, voice service providers must implement a call authentication technology called STIR/SHAKEN to help identify and block robocalls at no additional charge to consumers. The FCC is directed to promulgate rules regarding when a provider may block a voice call and establish a process for calling parties adversely affected by the call-blocking technology to verify the authenticity of their calls.
The FCC must work together with other governmental agencies—including the Department of Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general and other regulators—to improve enforcement efforts against robocalls by examining issues such as the types of law, policies or constraints that could be inhibiting enforcement and reporting the law’s effectiveness to Congress.
Notably, the FCC must provide the Attorney General any evidence of intentional robocall violations.
The TRACED Act’s expansive rule-making and reporting requirements signal an expected increase in enforcement actions over time, with more government agencies participating in the enforcement process.
To read the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, click here.
Why it matters: The impact of the new law remains to be seen, but lawmakers and legislators alike praised its enactment. “I look forward to monitoring the implementation of the TRACED Act and continuing to work to protect Americans from illegal and abusive robocalls,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said in a statement. FCC Chair Ajit Pai thanked Congress for the “additional tools and flexibility” provided by the new law. “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,” he said in a statement.