Robocalls Targeted by Trump, Cuomo, Michigan Attorney General

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TCPA rules on cell phonesIn what turned out to be a tough week for illegal robocalls, both the President and New York’s Governor have been behind bills set to combat the invasive form of marketing.

On Tuesday, President Trump signed the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement & Deterrence) Act, bringing into effect legislation first introduced to in November 2018. Aiming to crack down on the number of robocalls received by Americans, TRACED increases the fine faced by robocallers, setting it now in the range of $1,500 to $10,000 if caught. As well as this, the bill pushes for the rollout of call-authentication technology by telecommunication companies to identify ‘spoofed’ numbers and block them accordingly.

Such technology was authorized for use by an FCC vote last June. However while it has since been employed by the likes of T-Mobile and AT&T, the authorization did not guarantee all Americans access to the service, as in some cases it has been offered as a premium feature of more expensive phone plans.

Another detail of TRACED is that it extends the FCC’s period of time to collect fines from illegal robocallers from one year to four, a development that is seen optimistically as a path to increasing the number of charges made. According to the FCC, between 2015 and March of 2018, $208.4 million in fines was collected from illegal robocallers.

Historically, the onus has been on the individual to shield themselves from robocalls, with companies such as Hiya and YouMail offering apps to block them. But with this legislation, moves are being made to compel service providers to better protect their customers, and Governor Cuomo’s bill seeks to take this one step further.

Announced on January 1st, one day after Trump’s signing, Cuomo’s robocall bill is part of his 2020 agenda, titled State of the State. Sharing similarities with TRACED, one of the primary differences between the two bills is that Cuomo’s would require telecommunications companies to block robocalls, pinning them with a fine upon failing to do this.

And making it a hat-trick for anti-robocall legal action this week is Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, who set up a Robocall Crackdown Team dedicated to charging those partaking in the criminal activity. “The message we want to send loud and clear is if you are engaged in this kind of illegal activity, we are going to come after you,” said Nessel at a press conference. “And we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

Last modified: January 2, 2020
Brendan Garrett

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