FCC: Wireless Companies Should Provide Robocall Blocking Services

FCC: Wireless Companies Should Provide Robocall Blocking Services
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May 28, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave phone companies the go-ahead to offer services that would block robocalls from ever reaching one of their customers.

The announcement came after the FCC received more than 20 petitions from various organizations seeking more protections for consumers who are inundated with robocalls and spam text messages despite being listed on the National Do Not Call Registry.

"First, we are giving the green light for robocall-blocking technology, declaring that these market-based solutions can be offered without violating our call-completion rules," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post. "The FCC wants to make it clear: telephone companies can – and in fact should – offer consumers robocall-blocking tools."

About 218 million numbers have been adding to the National Do Not Call Registry since its inception in 2003, but many consumers still receive calls from scammers circumventing the law by routing the calls internationally, or just outright ignoring the law. In 2014 the FCC received 215,000 complaints relating to robocalls.

Consumer advocates, like Consumers Union, have been pressing phone companies to do more to stop the calls before they reach the customer, but the industry has been slow to act citing legal obstacles. About 325,000 people signed the group's petition asking that phone companies provide free robocall blocking services.

The rules proposed by the FCC would encourage phone companies to offer these types of services to their customers, clarifying any question as to the legality of blocking calls.

The rules would also close a number of potential loopholes, like clarifying the definition of autodialer to include any technology with the potential to dial random or sequential numbers. Also, customers who inherit a phone number won't be subject to the robocalls that were OK'd by the previous owner of the number.

Lastly, the new rules would make it easier for consumers to say no to robocalls by doing away with filling out a form and mailing it in to stop unwanted calls and texts. A reasonable "no" would be allowed.

All robocalls, of course, wouldn't be prohibited. Alerts to possible fraud on your bank account or prescription refill reminders would still come through. It's also likely that you'll still receive campaign robocalls during election season.

To sign Consumers Union's petition pressuring phone companies to offer call blocking services, click here.