Senate backs bill to stem flood of robocalls plaguing cellphones
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are fed up with the barrage of scam and nuisance calls plaguing them and their constituents and on Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure to combat robocalls.
Senators voted, 97-1, to pass a bill designed to authenticate and block robocalls and enforce penalties on scammers who use automated equipment to pump phones full of bogus calls. It’s not clear what will happen in the House, where Democrats in charge have their own anti-robocall proposals.
South Dakota Republican John Thune teamed up with Massachusetts Democrat Edward J. Markey to sponsor the measure, which would ramp up civil penalties to $10,000 per call and give law enforcement tools to pursue robocallers.
“Illegal robocalls, I think we can all agree, are a major nuisance,” Thune said. “Scammers use these calls to successfully pray on vulnerable populations like elderly Americans who are sometimes less technologically savvy.”
In recent years technological advances have allowed robocallers to target thousands of phones with minimal effort, which some advocates say has rendered the Do Not Call Registry established in 2003 ineffective.
“Perhaps the most important part of the TRACED Act is that law enforcement will now join the battle,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The measure would bring together the FCC, Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and departments of Justice, Commerce, State, Homeland Security and other relevant federal agencies, state attorneys general, and other non-federal entities to report to Congress on how to improve deterrence and criminal prosecution of robocall scams at the federal and state level.