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Consumer Reports: FCC votes to help curb robocalls, but more action is needed to help consumers

June 6, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today voted in favor of letting phone companies automatically block illegal and unwanted robocalls from reaching consumers, instead of requiring customers to opt in to call blocking services.

Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst for Consumer Reports, said the two FCC orders are constructive steps to strengthen protections for consumers, but more action is needed to help consumers deal with this enormous problem.

Mahoney said, “Consumers across the country tell us that they are fed up with nonstop unwanted robocalls.  These calls aren’t just annoying and disruptive.  Too often, scam artists use robocalls to prey on people and steal their money and information.

“The FCC has approved an order to make it clear that phone companies can legally offer advanced robocall-blocking tools to consumers on a default basis, with the option for a consumer to opt out. The second order is a proposed rulemaking to consider a possible ‘safe harbor’ that would protect a phone company that mistakenly blocked a call that shouldn’t have been blocked, as long as it was acting with care and in good faith.

“We support both of these steps by the FCC today, but there is still much more work to be done — including getting phone companies to implement anti-robocall technology, and ensuring that this service is provided to consumers free of charge.  The FCC also needs to issue strong rules clarifying  the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s coverage, to stop robocallers from attempting to evade it. We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC and Congress until consumers have the protections they need,” Mahoney said.

Consumer Reports’ recent cover story Mad About Robocalls? offered an in-depth investigation into how the robocalls problem has reached an epidemic level in recent years, with recommendations for phone carriers and the government to address the issue.

A recent nationally-representative survey by CR found 70 percent of U.S. consumers have stopped answering their phones if they don’t recognize the number or if the caller’s number is anonymous.  Sixty-two percent said they let most calls go to voicemail, and 53 percent said they have educated family members about potential threats and scams from robocalls and how to protect themselves.

Last month, the U.S. Senate passed a CR-endorsed, bipartisan bill to help address the growing problem of unwanted “spoofed” robocalls that use false caller identification information to disguise the caller’s true identity.

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For more than 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.