WASHINGTON DC (December 20, 2019) — Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) released the following statement on Thursday, December 19, on the passage of the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. Sen Grassley cosponsored the TRACED Act in the Senate, which was authored by Sen John Thune (R-SD).

“Robocalls aren’t just annoying, they can be dangerous. Wily scammers are stealing money and personal information from unsuspecting victims through robocalls.” Sen Grassley said. “Passage of the TRACED Act will help bring some much-needed relief of robocalls in Iowa and across the country. It is vital that these scammers are stopped and that enforcement be robust.”

According to YouMail, there were an estimated 48 billion robocalls in 2018, which is up over 65% since 2016. This number has already been surpassed in the first ten months of 2019. In fact, Americans received a record-high number of 5.7 billion robocalls in October. First Orion predicts that this year 44.6 percent of all calls to mobile devices will be scams. In 2018, the FCC received 232,000 consumer complaints of unwanted calls, a nearly 35 percent increase since 2015.

In May, the Senate passed the TRACED Act by a vote of 97-1. In July, the House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act by a vote of 429-3. These bills were reconciled resulting in the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act.

The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, S. 151, is bipartisan legislation that takes aim at telemarketers who prey on consumers. The following is a summary of the major provisions of the bill:

  • TRACED grants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more latitude to pursue civil-forfeiture penalties against the worst offenders — robocallers intentionally violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Under current law, the FCC must first issue a citation to a robocaller, and then can only seek penalties within a year of a subsequent violation. This bill would permit the FCC to pursue intentional violations for up to four years after a violation has occurred and would eliminate the citation requirement. The bill applies to calls and text messages.
  • The legislation would direct the FCC to adopt rules requiring all classes of telephone providers to adopt call-authentication technologies. These technologies enable a telephone-carrier to verify that incoming calls are authenticated before they reach consumers’ phones.
  • TRACED commissions a working group of law enforcement and other key robocall enforcers to evaluate policies and resources needed to better prosecute and deter illegal robocalls. The working groups will be comprised of the FCC, Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Requires the FCC to evaluate ways to reduce access to numbers by potential violators.
  • Directs the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted unauthenticated calls. This mandate will ensure that the FCC adopts protections that help empower subscribers to block calls from spoofed numbers.
  • Consumers often receive robocalls intended for previous individuals who had their phone number. TRACED ensures the FCC is quickly making available the reassigned number database it agreed to implement in December 2018 by requiring a report to Congress.
  • Requires the FCC to issue an annual report to Congress on their enforcement efforts against illegal robocallers, and to provide information to the US Attorney General regarding certain violations.
  • One-ring scams are when an international scammer makes a call to a consumer in hopes that the consumer will call them back so that they can charge exorbitant fees. Under TRACED, the FCC is required to initiate a proceeding to protect consumers from one-ring scams.
  • TRACED requires the FCC to register a neutral consortium of companies that have banded together to trace back the origin of illegal robocalls. The Commission would report to Congress on the consortium’s findings. 
  • Hospitals are plagued by robocalls resulting in some lifesaving information being given to consumers. TRACED establishes a Hospital Robocall Working Group to issue best practices to help carriers combat illegal robocalls to hospitals.
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