For some time now, stopping unwanted and illegal calls has been the FCC’s top consumer protection priority. In addition to aggressive enforcement activity and consumer education, we have focused on creating an effective regulatory environment that enables and encourages phone companies and others to proactively stop unwanted robocalls from ever reaching customers.
In 2017, the FCC adopted new rules allowing phone companies to proactively block calls with caller ID information from telephone numbers that do not or cannot make outgoing calls.
In June 2019, the FCC ruled that phone companies may block unwanted robocalls by default, based on reasonable analytics, and offer consumers more advanced tools that can block calls not on their contact lists or allow calls only from so-called “white lists” of approved contacts.
That focus is paying dividends. A recent FCC report on call blocking tools finds that call-blocking technology is now substantially available at low or no cost to customers. The report also finds that billions of unwanted calls to American consumers are being blocked each year.
In surveying the tools phone companies and call blocking service providers have made available to consumers, the report identifies another important tool in the fight against unwanted calls, call labeling. It is offered by most voice service providers in partnership with analytics companies, and displays categories for potentially unwanted or illegal calls such as “spam” or “scam likely” on the telephone’s screen, empowering the consumer to decide whether to answer the call.
We plan to continue building on this strong foundation. At its July 16 Open Meeting, the Commission will consider additional action to strengthen FCC call blocking policies. The proposal being considered would, among other things, give voice service providers a safe harbor from liability for the unintended or inadvertent blocking of legitimate calls, as long as the blocking is based on reasonable analytics that include caller ID authentication. The proposal would also further enable responsible providers to block calls from the networks of bad-actor providers that facilitate illegal and unwanted calls.
Call-blocking is not the only solution the FCC is pursuing in the fight to stop unwanted and illegal calls. We are also:
- Mandating that voice service providers implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework on IP portions of their networks by June 30, 2021 to help providers and consumers verify caller ID-spoofed robocalls.
- Helping to thwart bad-actor providers that facilitate scam robocalls. As a recent example, in coordination with the FTC, six gateway providers were sent joint letters warning that failure to terminate COVID-19 scam robocalls within 48 hours could result in other voice service providers blocking all their traffic. The companies complied.
- Proposing a record $225 million fine for a company that apparently made more than 1 billion illegally spoofed robocalls in less than five months.
Going forward, the FCC will remain vigilant and continue using every tool at its disposal to combat and prevent illegal robocalls. For more consumer information and resources, check the FCC’s Consumer Help Center, which features consumer guides on robocalls and caller ID spoofing, and a glossary of robocall and text scams, including COVID-19 scams.
To file a complaint about unwanted calls or other telecommunications issues, visit the Consumer Complaint Center.