Skip to main content

FCC Continues to Implement Provisions of the TRACED ACT

The sign over the door at the entrance to the FCC headquarters

Posted by Chris Alarie on Mon, 05/04/2020 - 11:54

The Pallone-Thune TRACED Act was signed into law on December 30, 2019 as a major piece of legislation governing the regulation of robocalls. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continued its implementation of the TRACED Act, announcing new rules and seeking public comment on another proposed rule.

On April 28, the FCC issued a Notice of Proper Rulemaking and a call for public comment on

how to “implement the TRACED Act and build upon [their] efforts to combat the one-ring scam by promoting consumer education and outreach, coordinating with [their] regulatory partners, and working more closely with industry to protect all Americans.” They also seek public comment on “allowing voice service providers to block a voice call when such call purports to originate from a number that is highly likely to be associated with a one-ring scam.”

Noting that the FCC received 2,600 complaints about one-ring scams in 2019, the Notice describes how these scams work: “One-ring scammers call consumers in the United States from a foreign country. The calls often appear to be from a domestic caller either because the originating number has a three-digit code resembling a United States area code, or because the caller ID spoofs a well-known United States business name.” The term “one-ring scam” refers to how “the caller hangs up after one ring (sometimes repeatedly), hoping the consumer will call the number back to see who called and what the call was about, resulting in high international toll charges to the consumer.”

Commenters have 30 days after the Notice’s publication in the federal register to post initial comments and 45 days to post reply comments.

On May 1, the FCC issued an Order that implements additional provisions of the TRACED Act. The most notable aspect of this Order is that it puts an end to the FCC’s practice of issuing warning citations to robocallers and spoofers before issuing penalties. This is a change from the Commission's previous practice of issuing warnings before levying fines. Now violators could be fined without ever receiving a warning. The Order quotes FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, saying, “Robocall scam operators don’t need a warning these days to know what they are doing is illegal, and this FCC has long disliked the statutory requirement to grant them mulligans. We have taken unprecedented action against spoofing violations in recent years and removing this outdated ‘warning’ requirement will help us speed up enforcement to protect consumers.”

Other changes implemented by the Order include increasing the fines for intentional robocall violations to $10,000 per violation and extending the statute of limitations to four years for robocall violations and spoofing violations. The FCC determined that these changes were explicitly required by the TRACED Act and do not involve any sort of discretion by the Commission. As a result, there is no Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the order is not open to public comment. These changes will take effect 30 days after the Order is published in the federal register.