S. 30: Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009

S. 30

Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009

Sponsor
Sen. Bill Nelson

Date
December 15, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

S. 30 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Wednesday, December 15, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  The legislation was introduced on January 7, 2009, by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).  The Senate approved the bill on February 23, 2010, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

S. 30 would make it illegal to cause any Caller ID service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate Caller ID information with the intent to defraud, deceive or wrongfully obtain anything of value. The bill would apply to traditional telephone and voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) services.

The bill, however, would not prohibit the use of false phone numbers in any authorized law enforcement activity or in any court order that specifically authorizes the use of Caller ID manipulation.  The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to report to Congress on whether additional legislation is necessary to prohibit the provision of inaccurate caller identification information in technologies that are successor or replacement technologies to telecommunications service or Internet protocol-enabled voice service.

Penalties:  The bill would make violators liable for a forfeiture penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation, or $30,000 for each day of a continuing violation, except that the amount assessed could not exceed $1 million for any single act.  There would be a two-year statute of limitation on penalties.

The bill would establish criminal fines of no more than $10,000 for each violation, or $30,000 for each day of a continuing violation, in lieu of a general penalty for any individual who willfully and knowingly violates the measure's provisions. This provision would not supersede provisions of current law relating to imprisonment or the imposition of a penalty of both fine and imprisonment.

Civil Actions by States:  The bill would permit the chief legal officer of a state or any other state officer authorized by law to bring legal action on behalf of a state's residents, to bring a civil action in U.S. district court to enforce the bill's provisions or to impose the civil penalties for violations, whenever the officer has reason to believe the interests of the state's residents are being threatened or adversely affected.  Prior to action, the officer would have to provide written notice to the FCC of any civil action.

Under the bill, the FCC would have the authority to intervene in the action and to file petitions for appeal.  The bill states that nothing in it would prevent the chief legal officer of a state from exercising the powers conferred by state laws to conduct investigations or to administer oaths or affirmations or to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documentary and other evidence.

Finally, the bill would require any action brought by a state official in a U.S. district court to meet certain applicable venue requirements. The process of such an action would be served without regard to the territorial limits of the district or of the state in which the action is instituted, and a person who participated in an alleged violation that is being litigated in such a civil action would be joined in the action without regard to his or her residency.

Background

The House passed a similar bill (H.R. 1258) by voice vote on April 14, 2010.  Caller ID allows consumers to see the names and telephone numbers of incoming calls.  Recently, criminals have been calling victims and changing—or "spoofing"—their information on Caller ID, leading the victim to believe that somebody else is calling.  Under current law, "spoofing" is legal and relatively easy to carry out.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates developing and enforcing regulations required under the bill will cost about $1 million annually, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Furthermore, the FCC is currently authorized to collect fees from industry sufficient to offset the cost of its regulatory program.  Therefore, CBO estimates the net budgetary impact of S. 30 would be negligible.