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Taking Charge Against Robocalls

09.26.2018

Picture this: It’s a busy day at work, you’ve got your hands full, and the phone rings. Is it the client call you were expecting? No, it’s a robocall.

Or this: It’s your day off, you’re relaxing on the couch, and the phone rings. Is it your friend calling to catch up? No, it’s a robocall.

Robocalls are annoying, and can sometimes result in monetary harms inflicted on consumers. That’s something we can all agree on. It’s why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have cited robocalls among the top consumer complaints the agencies face today. And it’s why USTelecom and our members are ramping up efforts to stop illegal calls in their tracks, before the phone rings. 

There is no silver bullet to solve the escalating, illegal robocall problem that so many consumers loathe. But USTelecom and our members have been leading on this issue and are committed to stopping these calls in their tracks. Our comments filed this week include recommendations for continued vigilance, and how best to move forward. 

Permission to Up the Ante 

In its 2017 Call Blocking Order,the FCC gave telephone providers four criteria to use to  identify and voluntary block suspected illegal robocalls. Today, USTelecom would like to see those criteria broadened so providers have expanded ability to voluntarily block, label, or otherwise mitigate illegal robocalls beyond the categories identified in 2017. However, rigid mandates would be unwise.  

Bottom line: Industry stakeholders need flexibility in combating illegal robocalls. If the government were to mandate a rigid, single approach to identifying robocallers, bad actors could very quickly shift their strategy, while providers’ hands would be tied. 

Narrow the Chase

Illegal robocallers have strength in their diverse set of tactics, which is part of the reason it can be so difficult to thwart them. Callers are hiding in plain sight behind a myriad of constantly shifting approaches. Voice providers and third party call blockers alike must also shift approaches to catch them, using strategies like blocking and labeling.

Bottom line: Providers should be as nimble as the bad actors they are trying to shut down. We ask the Commission adopt a safe harbor so providers can institute blocking measures without being in violation of the Communications Act.

More on Board with Traceback 

Our association has led the 24 member Industry Traceback Group since 2016. Members of the Traceback Group are committed to identifying the source of illegal robocalls and working with law enforcement to bring them to justice. (More on the Traceback group here.) In working with the diverse group of domestic and foreign companies in the group, USTelecom has made successful enforcement referrals to the FCC and FTC. 

Bottom line: The more participants in traceback, the better. We hope the Commission urges more companies to support our traceback efforts so that industry can more quickly and effectively root out the bad actors that are allowing this traffic onto the phone network. 

Moving Forward

USTelecom is doing everything we can to support our members’ goal to stop the calls. Our companies offer a number of call-blocking solutions for their customers, and are deploying the advanced networks that make many third-party solutions possible. Visit our robocall page for resources on avoiding robocalls. 

Bottom line: USTelecom supports the Commissions’ effort to expand our industry’s ability to tackle this important issue. Read our full comments here.

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