The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week told phone companies to start offering their customers free options to block robocalls and spam texts. Chairman Tom Wheeler said the FCC has received a deluge of complaints from consumers regarding robocalls and telemarkeing calls, calling them the “number one source of consumer complaints at the FCC.”
As a consequence, Wheeler reiterated the resolve of the FCC to tackle this nuisance by protecting consumers from unwanted calls, and giving them more autonomy over the calls and texts they receive.
Currently, private robocallers are required to obtain the consent of consumers before they can robocall or robotext their cell phones. Also, consumers can register their phone numbers with the FTC’s Do Not Call list, which makes it mandatory for legitimate robocallers to stop calling people. The FCC says it fully expects phone companies to comply with consumer requests to block robcalls.
The FCC sent a letter to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies asking them to offer free call-blocking services to their customers with immediate effect, Wheeler said. Additionally, intermediary carriers that connect robocallers to the consumer’s phone company are required to facilitate the offering of blocking technologies.
To buttress the urgency of this injunction, Wheeler has given phone companies 30 days to respond with “concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues.”
Congress directed the FCC to implement consumer protections empowering consumers to decide which robocalls and text messages they receive, and Wheeler said they will enforce those rules.
FCC has brought 13 formal enforcement actions to combat unlawful robocalls since 2013. For example, last year the Commission fined a Florida company nearly $3 million for illegal calls promoting travel deals and shut down an extensive robocalling operation affecting wireless consumers in West Virginia.
FCC has made it clear that phone companies face no legal barriers to helping consumers block unwanted calls with the use of robocall blocking technology. Wheeler said FCC will continue to pursue regulatory solutions to crack down on unwanted robocalls.
Last year, the Commission closed loopholes in their robocall restrictions, including placing limits on calls to reassigned numbers. Last week, FCC circulated rules to place limits on these robocalls after Congress changed the law authorizing the Commission to limit the number and duration of robocalls to collect federal debts.
This new proposal would limit the number of debt-collection calls allowed per month, ensure the right person is called, and allow consumers to stop the calls, said Wheeler. Such limitations are particularly important following a January Supreme Court ruling that federal government entities conducting official business are not subject to robocall limits unless Congress says otherwise.