FTC Supporting FCC Initiatives Allowing Providers to Block Illegal Calls
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FTC Supporting FCC Initiatives Allowing Providers to Block Illegal Calls

Call blocking by providers stops illegal calls before they get to consumers’ phones

July 7, 2017

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided a comment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the latter's initiatives to allow telecommunications providers to block calls at the network level, a move that would protect consumers from illegal calls.

Call blocking by providers at the network level is the best kind of call blocking because it stops illegal calls before they get through to consumers' phones.

The Comment and the Proposal

The FTC's comment was submitted as a response to the FCC's notice that it wants input on rulemaking proposals. These proposals authorize the following two categories of call blocking by providers:

  1. When the provider is asked by a phone number's subscriber to block calls from the subscriber's own number
  2. When the originating number is invalid, unallocated, or unassigned to a subscriber

The FTC supports the proposed expansion of providers' call blocking authority to stop calls that fall into these categories.

Ideas and Suggestions

The FTC's comment also gives the FCC ideas about changes to the rules. The issue of illegal calls includes more than just illegal robocalls: it also includes abusive, fraudulent, or unlawful calls. Therefore, the FTC is encouraging the FCC to clarify that it intends to allow call blocking for all illegal calls, not robocalls alone.

Finally, the comment notes that providers should clearly communicate how to resolve the problem when someone is a victim of illegal caller ID spoofing, such as when a call seems to be coming from the person's own number, or has their phone number inadvertently blocked by a provider.

The Importance of Flexibility

The FCC also wants to know the best way to authorize providers to block "presumptively illegal calls." The FTC advised the FCC to allow for provider flexibility rather than a rigid standard in guiding providers. This would assist the telecommunications industry as well as law enforcement in staying ahead of the unlawful callers.

Update: Attorneys general from 29 different states, including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, have signed a letter urging the FCC to adopt the proposed rules.

"Scammers frequently use so-called spoofed calls to hide their identity and trick consumers into believing that their calls are from legitimate businesses," said Attorney General Stein. "I will do everything I can to protect North Carolinians from these fraudulent calls that can lead to people losing their money to criminals."