Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Takes Action against Illegal Robocalls

The agency wants comments on initiative that would let phone companies stop clearly-fake robocalls

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Takes Action against Illegal Robocalls
Image: Pixabay
March 24, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking action to protect consumers from illegal robocalls.

At roughly 200,000 per year, unwanted calls—including illegal robocalls and telemarketing calls—are the top complaint that the agency receives every year. In 2016, it is estimated that consumers in the U.S. alone got about 2.4 billion robocalls each month.

The FCC wants public comments on rules that would systematize its proposed "Do-Not-Originate" initiative, which was launched by industry-led Robocall Strike Force. The proposed rules would let carriers block spoofed caller ID numbers associated with phone lines that, in reality, do not dial out. They would let the carriers do this without breaking established FCC rules that require carriers to complete all calls.

Strike Force members tested the concept in 2016 with permission of the FCC. The result was a 90 percent reduction in IRS scam calls.

The agency also wants public input regarding how to handle spoofed calls made from international locations, where scammers frequently hide to avoid the U.S. judicial system. Consumer complaints, law enforcement actions against scammers, and reports from the media all show that many of the calls most harmful to consumers may come from overseas, thus making it a challenge for the FCC to enforce U.S. law.

Finally, the Commission would like public comments on what else can be done to help carriers block illegal robocalls before they can get to the consumer. It wants ideas about how to develop a "safe harbor" for phone companies so that they do not break FCC rules when identifying and blocking probable fraudulent, illegal, or spoofed robocalls. The Commission hopes for consumer feedback on how to move this idea forward while at the same time minimizing blockage of legal calls and helping to clarify phone companies' responsibilities.