FCC Releasing Data to Support Robocall-Blocking Technologies

FCC Releasing Data to Support Robocall-Blocking Technologies
Image: Pixabay
October 21, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that it will start releasing robocall and telemarketing consumer complaint data every week to help developers build and improve "do-not-disturb" technologies that allow consumers to block or filter unwanted calls and texts.

The data, including originating phone numbers of telemarketers and automated robocalls, will be released and available on the FCC's Consumer Help Center's website.

"Consumers want and deserve effective tools to empower them to choose the calls and texts they receive. This data will help improve do-not-disturb technologies so they can provide the best service for consumers," said Alison Kutler, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which manages consumer complaints. "As we encourage providers to offer these services, and as the Commission recently made clear that there are no legal barriers to doing so, we continue to look for ways to help facilitate important consumer tools."

In June, the Commission gave the green light for do-not-disturb technology, clarifying that there are no legal barriers to service providers offering robocall-blocking technologies to consumers. While such services are available today as apps on some smartphones and on VoIP phone systems, work is still underway for many carriers and third-party providers to offer consumers these tools on traditional landline networks.

Consumer complaints submitted to the FCC are a vital tool in the agency's work. In addition to their use in providing vital data for these robocall-blocking technologies, consumer complaints can be used to inform policy decisions by the Commission and can be used by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau to track trends and enforce the rules.

The FCC says that complaints about unwanted calls and texts make up (by far) the largest complaint category, with over 215,000 complaints submitted to the agency just last year.

This robocall and telemarketing consumer complaint data is similar to the data released periodically by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). "Do Not Disturb" technologies use this information to determine what numbers might be originating unwanted calls. Companies may use data like this to further improve their services in determining what calls and texts a consumer might choose to block or filter (i.e. sent directly to voicemail).