Trump signs the TRACED Act, the first federal anti-robocall law

The law implements new consumer protections, gives more teeth to law enforcement efforts and takes other steps to combat unwanted robocalls.

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President Trump this week signed the TRACED Act, the first federal law designed to curb unwanted robocalls. With the problem of robocalls running rampant, the legislation passed with strong support in both the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate. 

The legislation takes on the problem from multiple fronts. First, it gives the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) more authority to go after the scammers responsible for unwanted robocalls. It allows the FCC to go after scammers the first time they break the law and extends the statute of limitations by up to four years in some cases. It also ups the financial penalties against robocallers. 

Additionally, it encourages stronger Justice Department criminal prosecution of unlawful robocalls by requiring the FCC to provide the DOJ with evidence of criminal robocall violations. 

Next, the law requires all carriers to eventually implement new technologies to authenticate caller-ID information, preventing call spoofing -- at no additional line-item cost to consumers. As Congress notes in its summary of the law, many illegal robocalls use call spoofing so the call appears to be coming from a trusted number. 

The FCC is already planning to mandate that carriers implement its SHAKEN/STIR authentication system to help combat robocalls. In March, AT&T and Comcast announced that they successfully tested the first SHAKEN/STIR-authenticated call between two different telecom networks. 

Meanwhile, the law additionally says consumers should also get access to robocall blocking at no additional line item charge on their bill. 

The law also requires the FCC to put new limits on robocalls that are legal, even without consumer consent -- such as calls from financial institutions regarding potentially fraudulent transactions. Specifically, the law calls for new limits on the kinds of organizations that may make such calls, who can receive such calls and the number of calls allowed under the exemption.

The TRACE Act also clarifies that when a person gets a new phone number, robocallers cannot keep calling to look for the person previously had that number.

It also requires the FCC to work to stop one-ring scams and helps the FCC and carriers trace back the origin of unlawful robocalls.

The law passed in the House earlier this month by a vote of 417 to 3, and it passed in the Senate by voice vote. 

During the legislative debate, Congress put out a white paper with data on the extent of the robocall problem: In 2018, there were an estimated 48 billion robocalls, up over 64 percent since 2016, according to YouMail. Meanwhile, First Orion predicts that this year 44.6 percent of all calls to mobile phones will be scam calls. 

In a statement, the cloud communications company Twilio said the legislation should have a notable impact: "The law will aid efforts among law enforcement authorities, government agencies and the communications industry to stop the bad calls and restore  consumers' faith that they will receive the calls they want. With its strong emphasis on the implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR protocol and consumer protection efforts, we expect to see a dramatic change in the robocall landscape in the next 12 to 18 months."