How much impact will the new Robocall bill really have?
This question was answered on January 2, 2020. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Anyone with a phone knows the growing irritation with getting nuisance phone calls from computers and wants it to stop. Americans are being deluged with tens of billions of calls per month and there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t grow larger if left unchecked.
Our legislators in a bi-partisan effort created new legislation known as the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act with the intent of fighting the problem. Some parts of it aren’t going to change much while others could go a long way to cutting down on spoofed calls from bad actors.
The law now allows for fines up to $10,000 per call, which sounds like a deterrent until you understand how ineffective fines have been in the past.
According to a Wall Street Journal report from early last year, the FCC had fined robocallers $208 million but when it came to actually collecting the fines, they recovered just under $7,000. That’s a paltry .00003264423% of the fines issued since 2015.
The FTC has faired a little better by collecting $121 million of the $1.5 billion that it has issued - @ 8%.
Many of the illegal operators are small businesses that have no assets to seize and no ability to ever pay the fine. Others simply shut down their operations and pop up as a completely new company or move offshore outside of US jurisdiction.
Increasing fines will only deter legitimate companies with real assets at risk, which is why many view this portion of the bill to be nothing more than grandstanding.
Changing an existing law that’s currently being ignored by criminals isn’t going to change much.
It’s already illegal to use fake numbers on caller ID, but since the technology that allows people in foreign countries to easily spoof any number they want, the law has no teeth.
The portion of the new law that is likely to have a solid impact is the requirement for wireless carriers to implement caller authentication process that will make it much more difficult for bad actors to fake their caller ID number.
The telecom industry has been working on a platform that will let customers know when a caller ID has been verified or if it’s a suspected junk call.
Additionally, the FCC has made it clear that cellular providers can block unwanted calls without having to ask customers first, which will lead to automatic call-blocking services.
The new law also says that the phone companies can’t charge extra for these call blocking and caller ID verification services. (Until they are in place, here are some tips on what you can do now: http://bit.ly/2Fl6Hrq).
Unfortunately, all of the current technology under development won’t work on landlines, so the FCC and phone companies will have to come up with an alternative solution for folks still using landlines.
Keep in mind, there are many legal robocalls such as pharmacy prescription alerts, charities and political parties to name a few. You also may have agreed to be contacted by an automated system when you ‘agreed’ to terms and conditions of a recent purchase.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on January 2, 2020