Klobuchar and Smith Hail Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Robocalls

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/23/19] – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) lauded Senate passage of a bill they championed that will increase penalties against telemarketers who spam Americans with robocalls and promote call authentication and blocking technologies. 

Robocalls are on the rise, with one source reporting an increase of 50% in robocall volume from February to July of last year. The bipartisan Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act passed in the Senate today would increase penalties for fraudulent telemarketers, while also implementing measures to proactively protect consumers from receiving unwanted robocalls. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Thune (R-SD).
“Robocalls aren’t just a nuisance—they’re illegal,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases penalties on those who make unlawful calls, and helps crack down on robocalls across the board.”
“Unwanted and abusive robocalls are on the rise, and today the Senate sent the strong message that we want to step up enforcement,” Smith said. “When we strengthen the government’s ability to bring enforcement action against abusive robocallers and direct voice providers to implement technology that screens for robocalls in advance, we’re making real progress to curb fraud.”
The TRACED Act would:
·         Broaden the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions.

·         Extend 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 told the committee that “even a one-year longer statute of limitations for enforcement” would improve enforcement against willful violators.

·         Bring 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.

·         Require voice service providers to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.

·         Direct the FCC to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from callers.

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect consumers from robocalls, ticket bots, unauthorized charges on their phone bills, and deceptive practices by fraudulent online travel booking websites. In April 2018, Klobuchar joined members of the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee to introduce the Robocall Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2018. The legislation, led by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), would help the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) remove barriers that prevent the agency from pursuing those who violate robocall rules. In 2015, Klobuchar called on the FCC to implement “Do Not Disturb” technology to block telemarketing and unwanted robocalls on both landline and wireless phones.
Smith has consistently also fought against robocalls during her tenure in the Senate. Earlier this year, she signed onto a letter written to FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, asking the FCC to establish stronger protections to combat robocalls. She also helped introduce legislation to enhance the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Do-Not-Call Registry by giving landline and cellular consumers alike the ability to petition for statutory damages for all unconsented-to telemarketing calls immediately after the first violation of the TCPA.