Legislation aimed at curbing illegal robocalls that are sweeping the nation has been on the minds of lawmakers for most of 2019, with both chambers of Congress passing their own versions of legislation by overwhelming majorities. In May, the Senate passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, S. 151, by a vote of 97-1. Following that, the House of Representatives passed in July the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, H.R. 3375, by a vote of 429-3.

On November 15, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), and Ranking Member Bob Latta (R-Ohio), jointly announced an agreement in principle on legislation, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act, merging and reconciling both the TRACED Act and the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, and indicated that the leaders “look forward to finalizing the bill text in the coming days.”

Rep. Doyle was quoted as stating that “there’s no reason why we shouldn’t see” the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act by the end of November. Sen. Thune was quoted as believing that a bill could be passed by Thanksgiving but that there were no guarantees, since things usually take longer than expected.

Drawing from the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act will require carriers to verify calls and allow robocalls to be blocked “in a consistent and transparent way” for free. From the TRACED Act, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act expands the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement powers by extending certain statutes of limitation and permitting the FCC to levy fines of up to $10,000 per illegal call, which “gives the FCC and law enforcement the ability to quickly go after scammers.” Further, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act will require service providers to adopt the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework proposed by the FCC in November 2018, aimed at thwarting scammers’ attempts to illegally spoof caller ID.

This agreement and upcoming Pallone-Thune TRACED Act has been described by Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of USTelecom, as a “powerful shot in the arm to our technology-driven traceback and verification work and will go a long way in helping take back our phones.”

Troutman Sanders LLP will continue to monitor this legislation for further developments and what it means for the industry.