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Focus on Regulation

Congress Passes Bipartisan Robocall Legislation

On December 19, 2019, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act (S. 151), which the House of Representatives passed in a 417-3 vote earlier this month.  With the Senate’s passage of the reconciled bill, the bipartisan legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk for his review.

The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take steps to improve call verification, reduce the number of illegal robocalls, and enhance the federal government’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) enforcement efforts.  More specifically, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, among other provisions:

  • Requires Implementation of STIR/SHAKEN – The FCC must establish rules requiring voice service providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN, which will allow voice service providers to authenticate Caller ID information.
  • Permits Call Blocking – The FCC must adopt rules that: (1) permit voice service providers to block calls that fail STIR/SHAKEN; (2) provide a safe harbor for voice service providers that inadvertently block lawful calls; and (3) require voice service providers to create a process for blocked callers to have their calls authenticated and unblocked.
  • Creates an Interagency TCPA Working Group – The U.S. Attorney General and the FCC must convene an interagency working group to study government prosecution of TCPA violations and submit a report to the House and Senate Commerce Committees. The working group will include representatives from the Departments of Commerce, State, Homeland Security, as well as the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Additionally, the Attorney General has authority to consult with non-Federal stakeholders.
  • Requires the FCC to Initiate a “One-Ring Scam” Proceeding – The FCC must initiate a proceeding to protect called parties from “one-ring scams,” which are short calls made in order to prompt a return call (and thus subject the called party to charges).
  • Requires the FCC to Forward Evidence of Illegal Robocalls to the AG – The law requires the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau Chief to forward evidence of “willful, knowing, and repeated” robocall violations to the Attorney General.
  • Increases Penalties for Intentional TCPA Violations by $10,000 per call – The law creates a stronger penalty for intentional TCPA violations.

The legislation also requires a safe harbor to protect voice service providers from liability for inadvertently blocking lawful calls and a remedial mechanism for inadvertently blocked callers, and the legislation delegates authority to the FCC to determine important details, such as the timeline to resolve any complaints from callers.

The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act now heads to President Trump for his review and signature.