The FCC is putting new pressure on both wireless carriers and traditional phone companies to give customers technology to block unwanted robocalls.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has told the carriers that they need to give their customers the option to block robocalls, which have become the largest source of complaints that the commission receives. The FCC is responsible for enforcing regulations about robocalls and texts, and the Wheeler said he has sent letters to the heads of all of the major carriers instructing them to begin offering blocking services to customers for free.
“In regard to the Commission’s expectations that carriers respond to consumers’ blocking requests, I have sent letters to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies calling on them to offer call-blocking services to their customers now – at no cost to you,” Wheeler said in a blog post Friday.
“Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive. I have also sent letters to intermediary carriers that connect robocallers to the consumer’s phone company, reminding them of their responsibility to help facilitate the offering of blocking technologies.”
Robocalls have been a major annoyance to consumers and businesses for a long time, but they’re also now part of the fraud ecosystem. The groups that conduct phone fraud scams often use robocalls as part of their schemes, and allowing people to block unwanted robocalls could go a long way toward making those scams much less successful. Another key tool in the arsenals of these scammers is software that spoofs phone numbers, making a scam call look like it comes from a legitimate source, such as the IRS or a bank. Wheeler said he also is asking carriers to address the caller ID spoofing problem.
“I am also calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective, as was done in the battle against spam years ago,” Wheeler said.
In addition to pressuring phone carriers to help stop robocalls, the FCC has been using regulatory and enforcement actions against companies that don’t comply with robocall limits. The commission has shut down a number of robocall operations recently and also has written a proposal to limit the number of robocalls that can be made to collect debts.