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CR: New FCC robocall rules are another important step, but more action is needed to combat coronavirus scams

Washington, DC —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today approved rules requiring phone companies to implement STIR/SHAKEN, a caller ID verification standard to help address the problem of robocalls sent with a false identifier—so-called “spoofed” robocalls—on their internet protocol (IP) networks by June 30, 2021. The rules are consistent with the TRACED Act, a bipartisan anti-robocall legislation that was supported by Consumer Reports and signed into law in December. The FCC also proposes to allow a one-year delay for small and rural providers.

Consumer Reports applauded the move, and encouraged the FCC to prioritize further actions to combat scam robocalls seeking to defraud consumers during a time of national emergency as the result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Maureen Mahoney, a policy analyst at Consumer Reports, said: “It’s outrageous that robocall scammers are preying on consumers with fake and misleading coronavirus information. Protecting consumers from robocalls has become a matter of life and death. We applaud the FCC for this latest step to hold phone companies accountable for the robocall problem, but there is still work to do. The FCC needs to take decisive action to ensure that phone companies actually stop scam robocalls before they reach the consumer.” 

“Further, as the coronavirus crisis has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket, now more than ever, consumers need protection from harassing debt collection robocalls. The FCC needs to issue strong rules ensuring that consumers have control over all of the robocalls sent their way,” Mahoney stated.

For years, Consumer Reports has called on the FCC to require phone companies to adopt effective anti-robocall technology. In July, Consumer Reports delivered over 200,000 petition signatures to the FCC, calling on the agency to require effective caller ID authentication technology. 

Effective anti-robocall tools are particularly important now because of an outbreak of coronavirus scams. Robocall scammers have reportedly targeted consumers with fraudulent offers for coronavirus safety and medical kits.

Consumer Reports is also supporting legislation in New York and California this year that would require phone companies to offer call-blocking tools, at no charge, upon request, and would impose a clear consumer prior consent requirement for most non-emergency autodialed calls and texts, both to cell phones and to landlines, so consumers can exercise their preferences. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Consumer Reports has urged policymakers to prioritize protecting personal safety and security, and offered additional resources to consumers. Consumer Reports had previously also provided tips to consumers seeking to avoid scam robocalls.

Contact: Cyrus Rasool, cyrus.rasool@consumer.org