President Trump signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law on Dec. 31, 2019.

The legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., “gives regulators more time to find scammers and levy fines for those who are caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and brings relevant Federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws.”

“I’m delighted the President signed this overwhelmingly bipartisan bill into law,” Pallone said. “This legislation will put Americans back in control of their phones. These calls are not just annoying – they also are scams targeted at consumers.”

Thune described the bill as “pretty straightforward.” Thune further noted that the bill “only targets those unwanted and illegal robocalls, like being offered a free trip to the Bahamas in exchange for a Social Security number and credit card information. It protects legitimate entities that use technology to contact consumers, like a bank flagging a potentially fraudulent transaction or a health care provider reminding a patient about an upcoming medical appointment.”

In addition to its primary cosponsors, the bipartisan and bicameral negotiation for the legislation was led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Greg Walden, R-Ore., Mike Doyle, D-Pa., and Bob Latta, R-Ohio.

According to Thune’s office, the TRACED Act:

  • Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (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 FCC, Federal Trade Commission, Departments of Justice, Commerce, State, and 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.

In addition to being bipartisan at the Federal level, the bill was supported by attorneys general in all 50 states, by all current commissioners at the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission, and by industry and consumer groups.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.