Trump signs law designed to ease the scourge of robocalls

Peter Weber

The hatred of robocalls is so great and so bipartisan that Congress sent President Trump a bill that requires phone companies to try to block such automated calls and strengthens the tools federal authorities can use to punish illicit robocallers. Trump signed the bill into law on Monday. This is a "big victory" for Americans with cellphones, said Maureen Mahoney at Consumer Reports. "The key is requiring these phone companies to help stop the calls before they reach the consumer and do it at no additional charge."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), phone companies, and state attorneys general have already taken steps to quash robocalls, and the new law bolsters those efforts. The FCC can now fine robocallers without warning, has longer to collect those fines, and is authorized to levy steeper fines on intentional lawbreakers and encouraged to work with the Justice Department to prosecute criminals. The law also requires phone companies to deploy systems to identify and block fake or "spoofed" phone numbers at no extra cost to customers.

But thanks to cheap dialing technology and the potential for millions of dollars from scams, robocallers will "always find ways around this," says Paul Florack at Transaction Network Services, which runs robocall analytics for Sprint, Verizon, and other telecoms. "The law also does nothing about telemarketing calls that aren't automated," The Associated Press notes. "A human can still pester you unless you sign up for the Do Not Call registry, which scammers often ignore anyway." Imperfections aside, an estimated 50 percent of all phone calls are junk, and any improvement in that ratio is very welcome news.

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