The FCC this week took three actions aimed at reducing the number of spam robocalls and spoofed calls that inconvenience, annoy and in some cases even defraud Americans.
The first action is that the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau issued a public notice and wrote to major phone companies and third party developers of call blocking tools to obtain updated information about those tools.
- Whether the companies are offering call blocking tools to consumers at no charge.
- How the companies measure the effectiveness of blocking tools.
- What protections the companies have put in place to ensure that call blocking does not interfere with emergency services.
The data responses, which are due by April 30, will aid the FCC in putting together its second Call Blocking Report.
The second action was taken by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. The bureau issued cease and desist letters to two voice service providers, which were not named in the press release. The FCC says the companies appear to be transmitting multiple unlawful robocall campaigns related to auto warranties and credit card reduction services.
The letters instruct the providers to investigate and prevent use of their networks for such calls. Downstream voice service providers will be authorized to block traffic from warned providers if the warned providers do not take necessary steps within 48 hours. The providers will face the same consequences if they don’t inform the FCC and Traceback Consortium within two weeks of their efforts to prevent use of their network for such calls.
Six such letters were sent in March, and each of the receiving companies responded within the 48 hour deadline. Each said they had stopped carrying the suspected traffic and mapped their plans to prevent such traffic in the future.
The third step is an initiative to itemize the completion of the FCC’s work to prevent robocalls by use of tools provided in the TRACED Act. The commission launched a new webpage that provides updates on call blocking rules, steps taken to implement new Caller ID authentication technology and efforts to address one-ring scams, protect hospitals from illegal robocalls and establish a reassigned numbers database.
“No one wants more unwanted robocalls in their life,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release. “I’m proud that we continue to find new ways to use all the tools at our disposal to make it clear to illegal robocallers that their days are numbered. We want them to know that we’re advocating on behalf of consumers everywhere to put an end to these calls.”
In March, the FCC issued a $225 million fine for a firm that made about 1 billion illegal robocalls during the first four-and-a-half months of 2019. The calls were from John C. Spiller and Jakob A. Mears but falsely claimed to be from major insurance firms. The two use the business name Rising Eagle.
Also last month, Verizon said that it was exchanging more than 24 million calls daily with other U.S. wireless carriers using STIR/SHAKEN. The standard is designed to prevent customers from being spoofed. Verizon says it has “protected” more than 75 million customers from more than 10 billion spam calls.