New Robocall Law Puts 2020 Pressure on FCC

January 9, 2020 | by Andrew Regitsky

New Robocall Law Puts 2020 Pressure on FCC

When President Trump signed the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law last week, the FCC was thrilled. After all, TRACED will provide the agency more power to fight call scammers, including:

  • Broadening its authority to levy civil penalties of up to $10,000 per call on people who intentionally flout telemarketing restrictions. /li>
  • Extending to four years after a robocall is placed the window for the Commission to catch and take civil enforcement action against intentional violations. /li>
  • Bringing together the Commission with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as state attorneys general and other non-federal entities, to report to Congress on improving deterrence and criminal prosecution of robocall scams at the federal and state level./li>
  • Requiring voice service providers to adopt call authentication technologies, enabling a telephone carrier to verify that incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers’ phones.

Chairman Ajit Pai released a statement on December 31, 2019 which stated in part:

I applaud Congress for working in a bipartisan manner to combat illegal robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing. And I thank the President and Congress for the additional tools and flexibility that this law affords us. Specifically, I am glad that the agency now has a longer statute of limitations during which we can pursue scammers and I welcome the removal of a previously required warning we had to give to unlawful robocallers before imposing tough penalties.

But as a certain superhero might say, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and that is certainly true for the FCC. As noted by the National Law Review, under TRACED, here is a partial list of the actions the Commission must now take in 2020:

  • The FCC must issue rules to establish a process for the registration of a single consortium, which would be a neutral third party group of voice service providers that will establish a methodology for and will conduct private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls (the “Registered Consortium”). This body will also be responsible for maintaining a set of written best practices about the management of and voice service providers’ participation in such efforts.
  • The FCC must initiate a new rulemaking proceeding to protect called parties from one-ring scams.
  • The FCC must issue a Public Notice seeking the registration of the Registered Consortium.
  • The FCC must begin a new proceeding to determine how the FCC could modify its policies to reduce access to numbers by potential robocall law violators. Examples include establishing new registration and compliance obligations, or imposing requirements that voice service providers with access to number resources take steps to know the identity of their customers.
  • The FCC must establish an advisory committee, to be known as the “Hospital Robocall Protection Group,” which is tasked to issue best practices regarding how voice service providers can better combat unlawful robocalls made to hospitals, how hospitals can better protect themselves from such calls, including by using robocall mitigation techniques, and how the federal and state government can assist.
    • The best practices are to be published no later than 180 days after the date on which the Group is established.
    • The FCC is then required to conclude a proceeding to assess the extent to which the voluntary adoption of such best practices can be facilitated no later than 180 days after the best practices are published.
  • The FCC must issue a Public Notice seeking information from voice service providers and the Registered Consortium on voice service providers’ participation in the private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls and on recommendations to the FCC regarding how it can use the information provided by the Registered Consortium in its enforcement efforts. A version of this Public Notice also must be issued each year by July 27.
  • The FCC must adopt and issue regulations to implement the amendments to Section 227 [of the 1996 Telecom Act] made by the TRACED Act. [Section 227 includes the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), which sets the rules for telemarketing and the use of automated call equipment.]
  • In conjunction with the interagency working group convened under this Act, the FCC must submit to the Committees of jurisdiction in the House and the Senate a report on the findings of the required studies regarding TCPA violations.
  • The FCC must submit to Congress: After consulting with the FTC, the FCC is to present a report on enforcement actions taken against unlawful robocalls and spoofed calls during the preceding calendar year. This report is due to Congress annually. (National Law Review Online, January 6, 2020 article by Laura H. Philips.)

The beauty of the TRACED Act is that it was supported by both Democrats and Republicans, consumer advocates, state attorneys general and telephone companies. It is the rare issue we can all support and drink to in the new year and hope for many more in 2020!