Trump signs law to cut down on robocalls

Trump signs law to cut down on robocalls

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE on Monday signed into law a bill aimed at reducing the scourge of robocalls that contact millions of U.S. consumers every year, assuring Americans will receive fewer spam calls in 2020. 

In a statement late Monday night, White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPence names new press secretary McEnany: Prayer 'made a lot of difference' in 2016 election McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation MORE said Trump was "proud" to sign the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, the result of months of bipartisan and bicameral negotiations on the subject, amid a divided Congress. 

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"This historic legislation will provide American consumers with even greater protection against annoying unsolicited robocalls," Grisham said. "American families deserve control over their communications, and this legislation will update our laws and regulations to stiffen penalties, increase transparency, and enhance government collaboration to stop unwanted solicitation."

The legislation likely won't cut down on the billions of spam calls flooding Americans' phone lines right away, but experts say average consumers can expect to see a reduction within six months — though the calls won't disappear completely. 

Over the past several years, illegal robocalls have spiked enormously in the U.S. as scammers find new and cheap ways to dial up consumers en masse as they pry for sensitive personal information. The scammers, oftentimes located outside of the country, frequently target vulnerable populations as they ask for social security numbers, credit card information and more. 

The TRACED Act will put the onus on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and phone companies to begin to combat the epidemic.

The bill requires phone companies to block illegal robocalls without charging customers any extra money and will require most carriers in the U.S. to ensure that calls are coming from real numbers.

It also gives government regulators more time to find scammers and penalize them more aggressively, increasing fines to $10,000 for illegal robocalling operations. 

Previous versions of the legislation would have required the FCC to place new parameters around what defines a "robocall" in the first place, potentially cutting down on automated calls from legitimate businesses as well as illegal scammers. But that provision ultimately didn't make it into the compromise bill or the law signed on Monday night.

The FCC and a broad coalition of state attorneys general have taken steps aimed at combating robocalls simultaneously, bringing the full force of relevant regulators and government officials against the wave of scammers.