In-Depth: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to crack down on illegal robocall scams:
“Robocall scams are more than just a nuisance to folks, they’re a shameful tactic to prey on the vulnerable. The TRACED Act holds those people who participate in robocall scams and intentionally violate telemarketing laws accountable and does more to proactively protect consumers who are potential victims of these bad actors.”
Attorneys general from 54 states and territories sent a letter of support for this bill, and all Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioners, major industry associations, and leading consumer groups have expressed their support for this bill. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says:
“I’m grateful to Senators Thune and Markey for re-introducing the TRACED Act. This legislation would make it easier for the FCC to track and take down illegal robocall scams and require the private sector to verify that the calls consumers receive are legitimate. I have made cracking down on unwanted and illegal robocalls our top consumer protection priority at the FCC, and we stand ready to work with Congress to tackle this issue head on.”
Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) President and CEO Meredith Attwall Baker says:
“We applaud Senators Thune and Markey for reintroducing the TRACED Act. Aggressive enforcement is key to combatting illegal and unwanted robocalls. CTIA and its members have implemented a multifaceted approach including new applications and network-based tools and industry initiatives. This is an issue we take seriously, and we commend this bipartisan legislation for enhancing the FCC’s authority to protect American consumers by going after bad actors and acknowledging the importance of industry’s efforts to adopt and implement call authentication.”
Observing the broad support for their bill, Sen. Thune and original cosponsor Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said:
“The overwhelming groundswell of support for the TRACED Act confirms what millions of consumers across the country already know – the scourge of invasive and intrusive spoofed robocalls has reached epidemic levels, and it’s time to hang up on these fraudsters once and for all. Our legislation will establish meaningful protections to authenticate and block spoofed calls, while also giving federal regulators more flexibility to pursue and penalize scammers. We thank the bipartisan coalition of FCC Commissioners, FTC Commissioners, consumer groups, and industry stakeholders for their support, and look forward to the quick consideration of the TRACED Act in Congress.”
This bill unanimously passed the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee with the support of 84 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 42 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and two Independents. A House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN), has 30 bipartisan cosponsors, including 24 Republicans and six Democrats.
In the 115th Congress, this bill had three bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat, and didn’t receive a committee vote. A House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), didn’t have any cosponsors and didn’t receive a committee vote.
Of Note: In 2018, the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from Adrian Abramovich, then-president of a now-defunct company called Marketing Strategy Leaders. Abramovich described a telemarketing operation as rather easy to put together and nimble, thus making enforcement difficult. His identification by the FCC and assessment of civil penalties raised questions for the committee about the lack of criminal prosecution for offenders caught intentionally and repeatedly violating telemarketing laws.
In a fall 2018 report, First Orion, a leading provider of phone call and data transparency solutions, found a dramatic increase in scam calls to mobile phones, from 3.7% of total calls in 2017 to 29.2% in 2018. Furthermore, First Orion projected that figure to continue growing, up to 44.6% by early 2019.
The FTC has taken a range of enforcement against robocallers recently. In 2018, the agency fined Adrian Abramovich $120 million — the largest fine it’d ever levied — for malicious spoofing related to a robocall scheme.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Tero Vesalainen)