As predicted, amendments to the TCPA – in the form of the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (the “TRACED Act”) – were signed into law by the President of the United States on December 30, 2019. The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) applauded this milestone on Twitter, commenting: “[T]he TRACED Act was signed into law, giving the FCC and law enforcement greater authority to go after scammers.” As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility: the enactment started the countdown for a long list of actions that the FCC is required to take during 2020 and beyond. This will add to the already active TCPA dockets at the FCC.
We share below the timeline for these actions to help our readers anticipate and prepare for the regulatory activities that will ensue. We summarized the content of these required FCC actions previously at this post.
By March 29, 2020 –
- The FCC must issue rules to establish a process for the registration of a single consortium, which would be a neutral third party group of voice service providers that will establish a methodology for and will conduct private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls (the “Registered Consortium”). This body will also be responsible for maintaining a set of written best practices about the management of and voice service providers’ participation in such efforts.
By April 28, 2020 –
- The FCC must initiate a new rulemaking proceeding to protect called parties from one-ring scams.
- The FCC must issue a Public Notice seeking the registration of the Registered Consortium.
By June 27, 2020 –
- The FCC must begin a new proceeding to determine how the FCC could modify its policies to reduce access to numbers by potential robocall law violators. Examples include establishing new registration and compliance obligations, or imposing requirements that voice service providers with access to number resources take steps to know the identity of their customers.
- The FCC must establish an advisory committee, to be known as the “Hospital Robocall Protection Group,” which is tasked to issue best practices regarding how voice service providers can better combat unlawful robocalls made to hospitals, how hospitals can better protect themselves from such calls, including by using robocall mitigation techniques, and how the federal and state government can assist.
- The best practices are to be published no later than 180 days after the date on which the Group is established.
- The FCC is then required to conclude a proceeding to assess the extent to which the voluntary adoption of such best practices can be facilitated no later than 180 days after the best practices are published.
By July 27, 2020 –
- The FCC must issue a Public Notice seeking information from voice service providers and the Registered Consortium on voice service providers’ participation in the private-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls and on recommendations to the FCC regarding how it can use the information provided by the Registered Consortium in its enforcement efforts. A version of this Public Notice also must be issued each year by July 27.
By September 25, 2020 –
- The FCC must adopt and issue regulations to implement the amendments to Section 227 made by the TRACED Act.
- In conjunction with the interagency working group convened under this Act, the FCC must submit to the Committees of jurisdiction in the House and the Senate a report on the findings of the required studies regarding TCPA violations.
By December 30, 2020 –
- The FCC must submit to Congress:
- After consulting with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FCC is to present a report on enforcement actions taken against unlawful robocalls and spoofed calls during the preceding calendar year. This report is due to Congress annually.
- A report on the status of the FCC’s efforts to establish the Recycled Number Database. This report must also be available on the FCC’s website.
- The FCC must submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate:
- A report of its determinations about the status of adoption of STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework by voice service providers in IP networks and the status of implementing an effective call authentication framework by voice service providers in non-IP networks;
- A report that states the number of instances during 2020 that the FCC provided evidence of willful, knowing, and repeated robocall violation with an intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value to the Attorney General, as well as a summary of the types of robocall violations that were proved. This report also is to be available on the FCC’s website. This report is due to the Congressional Committees annually going forward.
- A report on the status of the proceedings the FCC initiated to protect called parties from one-ring scams. This report must also be published on the FCC’s website.
- A report on the status of private industry-led efforts to trace back the origin of suspected unlawful robocalls by the Registered Consortium and the participation of voice service providers in such efforts. This report must also be published on the FCC’s website. This report is due annually to the Committees on December 30.
- The FCC must conduct an assessment on any material new burdens or legal or practical barriers to the implementation of the required call authentication frameworks and, upon a public finding of undue hardship, the FCC may delay required compliance for a “reasonable” period of time to be specified by the FCC.
- The FCC must issue best practices that voice service providers may use as part of the implementation of effective call authentication framework to ensure that the calling party is accurately identified.
- The FCC also must issue rules that address:
- when a voice service provider may block a voice call based, in whole or in part, on information provided by the required call authentication frameworks with no additional line item charge;
- a safe harbor for voice service providers from liability for unintended or inadvertent blocking of calls or for the unintended or inadvertent misidentification of the level of trust for individual calls based, in whole or in part, on information provided by the required call authentication frameworks;
- a process to permit a calling party adversely affected by the information provided by the required call authentication frameworks to verify the authenticity of the calling party’s calls; and
- ensuring that calls originating from a voice service provider in an area where the provider is subject to a delay of compliance authorized by the FCC are not unreasonably blocked because the calls are not able to be authenticated.
- The FCC must begin a rulemaking proceeding to protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or text messages from callers using unauthenticated numbers.
- The FCC must issue new regulations or amend existing regulations related to exemptions under the TCPA so that such exemption must specify the classes of parties that may make calls or texts, the classes of parties that may be called, and the number of calls that a calling party may make to a particular called party.
- The FCC must take a final agency action to ensure that the robocall blocking services provided under the “Call Blocking by Default” regime are provided with transparency and effective redress options, with no additional line charge, and reasonable efforts are made to avoid blocking emergency public safety calls.
By June 30, 2021 –
- The FCC must require voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN authentication framework on all IP networks and to take reasonable measures to implement an effective call authentication framework on all non-IP networks.
- The FCC must issue regulations establishing a process to streamline the ways in which a private entity may voluntarily share information with the FCC about calls made or text messages sent for which misleading or inaccurate caller ID information was transmitted in violation of the TCPA’s prohibition against unlawful spoofed calls.
- The FCC must submit to Congress a report on the results of a study addressing whether certain VoIP service providers should be required to maintain contact information on file with the FCC and retain records relating to each call transmitted over the VoIP service that would be sufficient to trace such a call or text back to its source.
December 30, 2022 –
- After having issued a Public Notice and sought public comments, the FCC is to issue a report on the efficacy of the technologies used for call authentication frameworks. The FCC must also determine whether the required call authentication framework needs to be revised or replaced, and then compile this information along with any proposed actions and submit this report to the Congressional Committees of jurisdiction. The review, determination, and report are also required every three years beyond the year of 2022.
The FCC continues to have a number of other significant pending TCPA issues that may be combined with one or more of its new TRACED Act proceedings and activities. In addition to specifying a coherent and concrete definition of what constitutes an “automatic telephone dialing system” (“ATDS”), the FCC has a number of pending requests for clarification and waivers of its rules, as well as an open proceeding on the details of implementation of a reassigned number database. We will continue to report on these areas as developments warrant.