The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act is now making the rounds of the Senate in an effort to strike against unwanted telephone solicitations.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the committee and author of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, introduced the bill.
“Amidst ever increasing numbers of robocall scams, the TRACED Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those 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,” the senators wrote in a statement.
“The bill targets robocall scams and other intentional violations of telemarketing laws so that when authorities do catch violators, they can be held accountable,” Thune said. “Existing civil penalty rules were designed to impose penalties on lawful telemarketers who make mistakes. This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors.”
The TRACED Act:
- Broadens the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.
- Extends the window for the FCC to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations to three years after a robocall is placed.
- Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 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 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.
- Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers using unauthenticated numbers.
In April, the Commerce Committee heard testimony under subpoena from Adrian Abramovich, the president of a now-defunct company called Marketing Strategy Leaders. Abramovich has since been assessed a $120 million fine by the FCC for making nearly 100 million robocalls between 2015 and 2016.
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.
As one report estimated, the number of spam calls will grow from 29 percent of all phone calls this year to 45 percent of all calls next year. The TRACED Act, its sponsors say, would give the FCC more flexibility to enforce rules in the short term while setting in motion consultations to increase prosecutions of violations, which often require international cooperation.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, is also a cosponsor of the bill.