The House-passed TRACE Act aims to prevent and curb illegal robocalls.
At Maggie Smith’s Hard Bean Coffee shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, customers get put on hold about a half dozen times a day so Smith can answer a phone call from a robot.
“It disrupts the flow of our business,” she told a local news reporter. In Smith’s line-of-work, the phone can’t be on silent. “We could have a line of people, phone rings, and we have to stop what we’re doing and answer,” Smith said.
Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) said one constituent of hers, named Zachary, works nights in medical services and knows how Smith feels. “He can’t turn off his phone during the day in case of an emergency, but he’s getting ten or more spam calls a day – interrupting his sleep schedule,” Axne said.
“Iowans are sick and tired of illegal and unwanted robocalls, myself included.”
Axne voted with a majority of the U.S. House last week to pass legislation to prevent and stop illegal and unwanted robocalls. The TRACE Act would require phone carriers like Verizon to implement call authentication and robocall blocking technology without charging customers, increase maximum punishments for illegal robocalls, and convene a new working group to improve prevention and prosecution on the matter.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who sponsored the legislation, said he introduced the bill in part to help protect seniors who are regularly targeted by phone scammers.
“I am proud to have cosponsored a bipartisan bill to bring some relief, and I look forward to seeing the President sign it into law,” Malinowski said in a statement.
Americans received a record 5.7 billion robocalls in October, according to Youmail, a telecomm services company. That’s equivalent to Americans receiving 182 million calls per day or about 2,115 calls every second.
October bypassed March 2019 as the worst robocalling month of all time, exceeding the prior record of 5.2 billions calls per month by seven percent.
Not all robocalls are illegal, and the nor would the TRACE Act change make them so. Robocalls with pre-recorded messages that identify who is initiating the calls and include a telephone number or address where the initiator can be reached are allowed in federal law. The TRACE Act would not outlaw such calls entirely; rather, it aims to reduce those that are legal and eliminate those that are illegal.