Known as TRACED, the bill will penalize scammers up to $10,000 per robocall. But experts aren’t sure whether it’ll have much impact.
The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation which, if approved by President Donald Trump, will impose significant fines on robocall solicitation.
Entitled the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act—or TRACED—the bill passed 97-1. According to The Hill, the proposal attracted nearly 80 co-sponsors by the time it reached the Senate floor.
Introduced by Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Ed Markey (D-MA), TRACED gives the federal government authority to fine offenders up to $10,000 per call. It also provides regulators additional tools to track down and punish robo-callers.
“It will make life a lot more difficult for scam artists and help ensure that more scammers face punishment for their crimes,” Thune said earlier this week, just ahead of the Senate vote.
While Thune’s still hoping the House will take up similar legislation, TRACED has attracted widespread support. Every attorney general in the nation has offered backing, along with the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and various industry groups.
“This piece of legislation will help all Americans deal with the epidemic of robocalls which afflicts them and their families every single day of the year,” Markey said on Thursday, adding that illegal tele-scams are difficult to escape in modern times.
“This question of robocalls and the role in American society—it’s a daily deluge of calls Americans receive,” Markey said. “It is a consumer protection crisis. Americans across the country face an epidemic of robocalls, bombarding landlines and mobile phones.”
However, The Associated Press quotes experts who are quick to opine that legislation won’t make the problem disappear overnight. Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst for Consumer Reports, lauded TRACED as a good first-step—albeit one’s that remains flaws.
According to Mahoney, robo-calling became telephone scammers’ preferred tactic for many reasons. Technology makes automated calling cheap—and because many cons targeting U.S. consumers are based overseas, enforcement will remain problematic.
Mahoney told The Associated Press that telecom providers need to give consumers more tools to screen incoming calls. While TRACED requires phone companies to offer apps that verify whether an incoming call is sourced from a real number, many scammers using fake numbers associated with actual companies and government agencies, like the IRS.
The Hill notes that, in the House, Rep. Franke Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)—chairman of the Energy and Resource Committee—recently revived the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act. That act, like TRACED, will allow consumers to opt out of many legal robocalls while giving the government power to ban others. It’d also increase the statute of limitations for prosecuting violators.