U.S. President Donald Trump has signed into power a bill he hopes will curb the scourge of automated “robocalls” in America. But fears are the law will do little to solve a problem that has long sped out of control.
According to YouMail, a company that prevents robocalls, Americans received 4.6 billion robocalls in December 2019 alone – 43% of which are scams. Robocalls cost U.S. consumers $285.2m in the first half of last year, during which the FCC fielded over 30,000 complaints. In 2018 that figure was $239m.
President Trump signed The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act—or TRACED Act—into law yesterday (Jan 1, 2020). A rare act of bipartisan politics in Washington, the bill increases fines for robocallers from $1,500 to $10,000, and requires phone companies to develop “call authentification technologies” to verify calls before they reach consumers.
The law also enables feds to prosecute scammers without warning them first. And they will have far more time to pursue cases.
The White House says the bill will put “illegal robocallers on notice.” But few believe it will put robocalls on hold altogether. The vast majority of call-scammers are based overseas, and the FCC has traditionally struggled to squeeze fines out of transgressors.
Effective screening and rejecting robocalls also requires phone carriers to work multilaterally on networks and technology – collaboration that was entirely absent until T-Mobile and AT&T announced a joint project last August. Insiders say the tech isn’t quite developed that will stop the calls altogether. Americans should expect plenty more nuisance in the coming months.
The TRACED Act is an important step in the right direction, and a rare issue that has crossed America’s fractured political divide. But criminal elusiveness, and technological hebetude, should ensure the dark industry of robocalls continues to thrive well into 2020.