Sen. John Thune
There’s unfortunately little doubt that we’re living in an era where it’s often more difficult than it needs to be for the two parties in Washington to come together on certain issues facing the country. I strongly believe that it’s important for elected leaders to have debates and exchange ideas, and I also believe we can have honest disagreements without being disagreeable with one another. It’s a responsible way to govern – something we owe to the people who elected us to serve.
While there are plenty of policies over which there are robust disagreements these days – disagreements I know we will be able to overcome – there is at least one topic, among several, that always seems to have strong bipartisan support: ending illegal and abusive robocalls that are affecting people across the country, including in South Dakota.
No one is immune to these annoying and potentially dangerous calls. I receive them. My friends and family receive them. Even my 99-year-old dad receives them. According to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), two federal agencies over which the Senate Commerce Committee has jurisdiction, unsolicited robocalls are among the top consumer complaints they receive, and it’s no wonder.
How many times have you heard your phone ring, seen a somewhat familiar number or area code, and answered it only to find out it’s either a scam or an unsolicited call that you had no interest in receiving. Some of these scammers intentionally target elderly victims and trick them into believing a family member is in trouble and urgently needs money. Others pretend to be a representative from a utility company and tell unsuspecting customers that without a quick payment, their power or water will be shut off. It doesn’t matter what the tactic is, their motives are despicable, and it must stop.
Illegal and abusive robocalls are a problem, but I don’t want to confuse them with other automated calls on which many consumers often rely. For example, if you’re on your way to the airport and your flight is canceled, if there’s a fraud alert on your credit card, or if you’re being reminded of an upcoming medical appointment, those are generally calls you want to receive. Different rules of the road apply for these types of calls, and they should.
When I was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I convened a hearing on the topic of illegal and abusive robocalls and heard from a wide range of individuals – from people who are tasked with targeting scammers and holding them accountable to the scammers themselves. I actually issued a subpoena to compel the testimony of perhaps the most infamous robocaller known to U.S. officials, Adrian Abroamovich. He’s currently facing $120 million in FCC penalties for making nearly 100 million robocalls throughout the country.
At the end of 2018, I introduced bipartisan legislation that would give federal regulators more tools and greater flexibility to find illegal robocallers and penalize them for their actions. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act would also bring together relevant agencies at the local, state, and federal level to tackle this issue with a collaborative approach, which, I believe, will be required to win this fight.
I recently reintroduced the TRACED Act, and it enjoys the same kind of bipartisan support this year that it had last year. As chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, I will be in a strong position to move the ball down the field on this important issue again this Congress. I think I can speak for all Americans when I say enough is enough. It’s time to act on this, and I look forward to leading this important effort.