Senate unanimously approves anti-robocall legislation

Senate unanimously approves anti-robocall legislation
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The Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to approve legislation passed by the House earlier this month to tackle robocalls, sending the bill to the president's desk.

According to a source familiar with Trump's plans, the president is expected to sign the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, named after its sponsors in the House and Senate, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump's magical thinking won't stop the coronavirus pandemic Lawmakers brace for more coronavirus legislation after trillion bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.D.).

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) told reporters Thursday that the bill is likely to be "signed into law the next week or so."

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“Illegal robocalls have flooded Americans' phones to the point that folks don’t want to pick their phones up at all,” Thune said on the Senate floor Thursday.

“No one is immune to these annoying and potentially dangerous calls.”

The TRACED Act would require phone companies to block robocalls without charging customers any extra money and require most carriers in the U.S. ensure that calls are coming from real numbers. It would give government regulators more time to find scammers and penalize them more aggressively. 

It would also require the FCC to deliver reports to Congress about what action they are taking against illegal robocalling operations and oversee a group of companies tasked with investigating where robocalls are coming from in the first place.  

In addition, the act would push the Department of Justice to take action against illegal robocallers more often. 

The bill comes as lawmakers and regulators have been fielding an escalating wave of complaints about robocalls, or spam calls that dial up U.S. consumers, often with the intention of stealing their personal information.

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According to a study released last week by caller identity firm Hiya, 54.6 billion robocalls were placed from January to November 2019, up 108 percent from the previous year.

The average American received 14 robocalls per month during that period, precipitating declining call response rates.

Outside of Congress, federal, state and local authorities have been taking their own steps to address robocalls.

This summer, the Federal Communications Commission voted to allow phone carriers to block suspicious calls by default. 

Last month, a group of attorneys generals from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., joined executives from 12 phone companies to announce a sweeping effort to combat illegal robocalls.