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Senators Shaheen, Hassan Applaud Senate Passage of Legislation to Crack Down on Illegal Robocall Scams

(Washington) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) issued the following statements after the Senate passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act – bipartisan legislation they cosponsored to give regulators more time to find scammers, increase penalties on those caught, promote call authentication and blocking adoption, and bring relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to evaluate policies and resources needed to better prosecute and deter illegal robocalls.

“For too long, people in New Hampshire have been hounded by scammers and illegal, disruptive robocalls. This has to stop,” said Senator Shaheen. “That’s why I’m encouraged by the bipartisan support in the Senate to move this bill forward, which will help protect Granite Staters and hold scammers accountable. I urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and vote on the bill as quickly as possible.”

“I am pleased that the Senate passed our bipartisan bill to help end the disruptive and deceptive practice of robocalling that can place some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk,” Senator Hassan said. “I will continue working to strengthen consumer protections and hold scammers accountable.”

As one report estimated, the number of spam calls will grow from 29 percent of all phone calls in 2018 to 45 percent of all calls this year. The TRACED Act would give the Federal Communications Commission (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. The legislation was introduced by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD).

Summary of the TRACED Act:

  • Broadens the authority of the 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. Under current law the FCC has only one year to do so and the FCC has reported that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against willful violators.
  • Brings together the Department of Justice, FCC, Federal Trade Commission, 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.