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Consumers Union and other consumer groups urge the FCC to take tougher action to stop illegal robocalls

FCC considering proposal to make clear phone companies can block fraudulent spoofed robocalls 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today, Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, and other leading consumer groups urged the agency to clear the way for phone companies to take more aggressive action to block illegal robocalls.  The FCC is currently considering a proposal to clarify that phone companies can block robocalls made using fraudulently spoofed phone numbers, when scammers transmit incorrect Caller ID information to trick consumers into answering their phone.

Consumers Union, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, Public Citizen, and Public Knowledge called on the FCC to allow phone companies to block spoofed calls when customers provide their consent and to encourage providers to take additional steps to curb fraudulent unwanted calls, which top the list of consumer complaints collected by the agency.

The consumer groups’ letter to the FCC notes, “Consumers are inundated with robocalls from scammers and shady telemarketers at all hours of the day.  Unfortunately, law enforcement efforts cannot keep up with the flood of illegal calls and the robocall epidemic gets worse each year.  There were more than three times as many complaints about Do Not Call violations in FY 2016 as there were in 2010.”

The letter continues, “Robocalls are more than just a nuisance that invade our privacy at home and at work.  They can cost consumers real money when they are used by crooks to commit fraud, which is too often the case.”  Phone scams result in an estimated $350 million in financial losses for Americans annually, according to Consumers Union.

With robocalls proliferating in recent years, the FCC is considering a proposal to clarify that phone companies can block fraudulently spoofed calls when the owner of the phone number asks the provider to block outbound calls purporting to be from that number.  The proposal also would make clear that phone companies can block fraudulently spoofed calls if the spoofed number is invalid (such as phone numbers using less than 10 digits), if the number hasn’t been assigned to a provider, or if the number has not been assigned to a customer.

The consumer groups urged the FCC to explicitly permit phone companies to take additional steps, such as using advanced analytics to identify and block clearly illegal robocalls and to clarify that providers should give their customers the option of blocking calls when Caller ID information is not authenticated.  Finally, the groups called on the FCC to revise their proposed definition of “illegal robocall” to include autodialed or prerecorded text messages and voicemails.

Over two years ago, Consumers Union launched its End Robocalls campaign, calling on the major phone companies to offer free, advanced call-blocking protection to consumers. Nearly 750,000 consumers have joined the campaign and urged the phone companies to take action.

Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-431-6747, ext. 7606