April 11, 2019
Across the country, phones are ringing off the hook and frustration is rising as the number of annoying robocalls seems to reach epidemic levels.
Consumers are irate, ignoring far more calls than we answer, assuming even numbers that appear familiar are just robocallers on the other line.
Cracking down on robocalls is a serious issue for USTelecom and our member companies and industry partners. Likewise, folks at the FCC, FTC, and state Attorneys General offices also are investing time and resources to fight illegal robocalls that seem to have taken over the line.
That’s why USTelecom launched our online Illegal Robocall Action Center to house an arsenal of tools including apps, referrals to enforcement agencies, and best practices for avoiding scams.
And here is some of what broadband providers and government officials are doing to tackle the problem:
Many providers have adopted new call authentication technologies, known as SHAKEN/STIR, which diminish the ability of illegal robocallers to disguise themselves as legitimate (a practice known as “spoofing”) and give consumers a tool to decide whether (or not) to answer a call. Most large providers have already implemented this standard, with more expected to adopt through the end of this year.
Just last week, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, now headed to the full Senate for a vote. The TRACED Act aims to bolster anti-robocall enforcement by allowing enhanced civil enforcement and criminal prosecution of illegal callers to ensure bad actors are held accountable.
Criminal enforcement will be key, because while the government has imposed major fines against robocallers, it’s reported only a fraction have been collected in fines and repayment to the victims of robocalls. We support the TRACED Act for this reason.
As for USTelecom, our association has led the Industry Traceback Group (ITB) and its 26 participants from across the wireline, wireless, VoIP and cable industries. The ITB Group actively hunts down the perpetrators, no matter where they are hiding—even if they are overseas—and shares it with enforcement agencies.
In fact, according to the FCC, “Over the course of the two years that the USTelecom Industry Traceback Group has been in operation, the amount of time necessary to conduct a traceback investigation from start to finish has shrunk from months to weeks.” We’re also proud the FCC sees the traceback efforts as “exactly the kind of industry/government cooperation necessary for success.”
So while robocalls currently hold the title of “number one consumer complaint to the FCC,” hopefully that title won’t last much longer.