President expected to sign Thune-Markey bill to crack down on illegal robocalls

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to sign the TRACED Act into law brought forward by Sens. John Thune and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act by was widely approved by Congress. The Senate first passed S. 151 by a vote of 97 to 1 on May 23, 2019, and the House of Representatives passed a modified version of the bill by a vote of 417 to 3 on December 4, 2019. It now heads to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.

Amidst ever-increasing numbers of robocall scams, the TRACED Act 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.

The TRACED Act will allow the FCC to enforce telemarketing restrictions, and allows them to take action against violators up to four years after a robocall is placed. If signed into law the act will also bring together several federal agencies and to improve their ability to prosecute robocall scams at the federal and state levels.

The act will direct the FCC to help citizens from receiving unwanted calls, “one-ring” scams and will have to establish a way to prevent hospitals from receiving illegal robocalls.

“I have yet to meet someone who says they enjoy receiving those unwanted and illegal robocalls that plague our phones, whether we’re at home, at work, or in the car, which is why the TRACED Act takes several important steps in the fight to curb this scourge,” said Thune after the Senate approved the TRACED Act. “This bill represents a unique legislative effort that is not only bipartisan at its core, but it’s nearly unanimously supported in Congress. Most importantly, this is a significant win for consumers in every corner of the country, and it finally and officially puts illegal robocallers on notice. While no process is perfect, I’m glad we were able to work together with Republicans and Democrats, senators and members of the House to reach this important compromise, which, once signed into law, will begin to make an important down payment on the fight against illegal robocalls.”

“The U.S. Senate today sent Americans a holiday gift on everyone’s list: stopping the plague of robocalls,” said Markey. “The annoying and harassing robocalls we receive every day are neither a Democrat nor Republican menace; they are a universal menace. The TRACED Act cracks down on scammers by requiring phone carriers to authenticate whether calls are legitimate, and then blocking unverified robocalls at no charge to consumers. I thank Senator Thune for his unwavering partnership on this important consumer protection issue. I hope the President quickly signs this bill into law so that families can enjoy a new year of family calls instead of robocalls.”

Thune and Markey introduced the TRACED Act on January 17, 2019, and its cosponsor list quickly grew to more than three-quarters of the Senate. The bill is 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, including AARP.

In 2018, when Thune served as chairman of the Commerce Committee, the committee heard testimony under subpoena from Adrian Abramovich, the president of a now defunct company called Marketing Strategy Leaders. Abramovich, who has since been assessed a $120 million fine by the FCC for making nearly 100 million robocalls between 2015 and 2016, 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.

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