The so-called "robocall bill" has passed and awaits President's Trump signature.  The Pallon-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act was passed by the House on December 4 and the Senate on December 19.  Here's what you need to know: 
  • Caller ID Authentication Technology.  Within 1 year after the bill's enactment, the FCC must pass regulations requiring voice service providers (VSPs) to implement effective call authentication technology (e.g., SHAKEN/STIR protocol).  The VSPs must also attest that they only allow calls to go through after appropriately authenticating the calling party number transmitted with the call.  The VSPs must implement their systems and provide attestations within 6 months after the FCC passes its regulations.  The regulations must include guidelines for VSPs to use to implement effective call authentication technology.  
  • Caller ID Spoofing Rules.  Within 1 year, the FCC must initiate a rulemaking process to evaluate and create regulations to protect consumers from calls and text messages from unauthenticated numbers.  The FCC's focus would be on "fraudulent provision of misleading or inaccurate caller identification information" and how best to block calls/texts from unauthenticated callers.  The FCC must also create a process for private entities to share information with the FCC about spoofed calls and text messages. 
  • Robocall Blocking Services.  Within 1 year, the FCC shall take a final agency action to ensure robocall blocking services provided on an opt-out or opt-in basis are provided to consumers for no charge, provided to callers with no charge for resolving complaints related to erroneously blocked calls, and to make reasonable efforts to avoid blocking emergency safety calls. 
  • TCPA Exceptions Must Be Limited (Including BBA Exception for Federal Debts).  The FCC must limit any exceptions for calls that do not require consent (e.g., the exception for calls to collect debts owed to the federal government) by specifying:
-     The classes of parties that may make such calls;
-     The classes of parties that may be called; and 
-    The number of such calls that a calling party may make to a particular called party.
For existing exceptions, the FCC has 1 year to pass regulations amending them to add these details.  The details must then be included in any new exceptions on a go-forward basis.
  • Protection From One-Ring Scams.  Within 120 days, the FCC shall initiate proceedings to protect consumers from "one-ring scams" which are defined as "a scam in which a caller makes a call and allows the call to ring the called party for a short duration, in order to prompt the called party to return the call, thereby subjecting the called party to charges." 
  • FCC Report on Reassigned Number Database.  Within 1 year, the FCC must file a public report on its efforts to establish the long-awaited database of phone numbers that have been disconnected or reassigned.  On December 12, 2018, the FCC announced it would adopt rules to establish the database.  The rules would require VSPs to submit monthly reports with information regarding permanently disconnected numbers to the database. The rules would also require "a minimum aging period of 45 days before permanently disconnected telephone numbers can be reassigned."  
  • FCC Annual Reports on Complaints and Enforcement.  Within 1 year (and on an annual basis), the FCC must coordinate with the FTC to file a public report on enforcement activities related to these issues.  The report must include the following information: 
-      Number of complaints related to TCPA violations and misleading caller ID information for the preceding 5 calendar years;
-     Number of citations, notices of apparent liability, and final orders issued by the FCC for the preceding calendar year;
-    Amount of forfeiture penalties or criminal fines collected by the FCC or Attorney General for the preceding calendar year;
-     Analysis of the contribution made by VoIP service providers to the number of calls that violate the law and recommendations for reducing the number of such calls; and
-      Efforts by FCC, VSPs, and private entities to trace back the origins of illegal robocalls.
The good news is the final bill does not include the TCPA amendments proposed by earlier forms of the bill introduced in June (e.g., redefining ATDS, called party, and confirming consumers may revoke consent in any way at any time, etc.).  Given the overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill and the upcoming election cycle, the President is expected to sign the bill soon.


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