U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed his recently enacted TRACED Act, which was signed into law on December 30, 2019. The TRACED Act provides the necessary tools to combat abusive and illegal robocalls that negatively affect vulnerable Americans each year. Thune expressed his gratitude to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for his partnership in getting this bill passed and for the strong bipartisan support it received in both houses of Congress.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it’s safe to say that pretty much every American has been subjected to annoying and illegal robocalls.
“Who hasn’t picked up the phone to discover it’s an automated message telling you you’ve won a trip to the Bahamas – which you can secure by passing along your credit card information – or asking for important banking information so your account won’t be closed?
“These calls are a major nuisance – and too often, they’re more than a nuisance.
“Every day, vulnerable Americans fall prey to ever-more-sophisticated scammers and have money or their identity stolen.
“Individuals who fall prey to scammers can spend months or years struggling to get their life back.
“I’ve been working on the issue of robocalls for several years now, first as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and now as chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet.
“I worked with Senator Markey to lobby the Federal Communications Commission to create a single, comprehensive database of reassigned telephone numbers so that legal callers could avoid contacting people who hadn’t signed up for messages.
“And I’ve spent a lot of time examining ways to discourage illegal robocalling.
“While Commerce Committee chairman, I held a hearing with notorious mass robocaller Adrian Abramovich.
“His testimony made clear that current penalties for illegal robocallers were not sufficient.
“Illegal robocallers have been building the cost of fines into their activities, and so far there has been no effective mechanism for criminal prosecution.
“Based on Abramovich’s testimony and testimony from federal enforcers, I developed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or TRACED Act, along with Senator Markey.
“And at the end of December, the president signed our bill into law.
“The TRACED Act provides tools to discourage illegal robocalls, protect consumers, and crack down on offenders.
“As I mentioned earlier, criminal prosecution of illegal robocallers can be difficult.
“Scammers are frequently based abroad and can quickly shut down shop before authorities can get to them.
“But I believe we need to make sure there is a credible threat of criminal prosecution and prison for those who use robocalls to prey upon the elderly and other vulnerable Americans.
“To that end, the TRACED Act convenes a working group with representatives from the Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, state attorneys general, and others to identify ways to criminally prosecute illegal robocalling.
“And in the meantime, it expands the window in which the Federal Communications Commission can pursue scammers and levy fines from one year to four years.
“The bill also makes it easier for your cell phone carrier to lawfully block calls that aren’t properly authenticated, which will ultimately help stop scammers from getting through to your phone.
“The TRACED Act also tackles the issue of spoofed calls – where scammers make the call appear as if it’s coming from a known number.
“TRACED also addresses the issue of so-called one-ring scams, where international scammers try to get individuals to return their calls so they can charge them exorbitant fees.
“And it directs the Federal Communications Commission to convene a working group to address the problem of illegal robocalls being made to hospitals.
“There are too many stories of hospital telephone lines being flooded with robocalls, disrupting critical lines of communication for hours.
“Will the TRACED Act completely solve the problem of illegal robocalls?
“But it will go a long way toward making it safe to answer your phone again.
“And it will help ensure that those who exploit vulnerable individuals face punishment for their actions.
“I’m grateful to Senator Markey for partnering with me on this legislation.
“The Washington Post praised the TRACED Act as an example of “good, old-fashioned legislating,” and I’m proud of the strong bipartisan support it received in both houses of Congress.
“I look forward to monitoring the implementation of the TRACED Act and continuing to work to protect Americans from illegal and abusive robocalls.”