FCC Calls On Carriers to Ensure Robocall Blocking Tools Are Free

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Tuesday, the FCC revealed its latest efforts to protect consumers from unwanted and scam robocalls and spoofed calls. The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau asked major phone companies what free robocall blocking tools they make available to customers. The Enforcement Bureau issued two more cease-and-desist letters to phone service providers suspected of facilitating robocalls. And the Commission started a new effort to track the agency’s actions to implement the anti-robocalls law, the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act. 

“No one wants more unwanted robocalls in their life. I’m proud that we continue to find new ways to use all the tools at our disposal to make it clear to illegal robocallers that their days are numbered,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We want them to know that we’re advocating on behalf of consumers everywhere to put an end to these calls.”  

In anticipation of the agency’s second Call Blocking Report, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau sent letters to major carriers and third-party developers of call blocking tools to get updated information about their robocall blocking efforts. The bureau seeks to learn more about the tools available to consumers, their effectiveness, and any potential impact on 911 services and public safety. Key questions include: 

  • Whether the companies are offering call blocking tools to consumers at no charge.
  • How the companies measure the effectiveness of blocking tools.
  • What protections the companies have put in place to ensure that call blocking does not interfere with emergency services.

Companies are asked to provide detailed responses to the agency by April 30 date to inform the upcoming report. (The Commission’s first Call Blocking Report was released in June 2020.)

The FCC also sent robocall cease-and-desist letters to two companies — Florida-based Tellza and Ohio-based R Squared Telecom — that it says appear to be transmitting multiple unlawful robocall campaigns that market auto warranties and credit card debt reduction service. They also appear to claim, falsely, to be from the Social Security Administration or other well-known companies, says the agency.

The cease-and-desist letters instruct the providers to investigate and, if necessary, cease transmitting the identified traffic immediately and take steps to prevent its network from continuing to be a source of apparently illegal robocalls. Downstream carriers “will be authorized to block all of the warned provider’s traffic if that provider does not take steps to effectively mitigate illegal traffic within 48 hours,” said the FCC.  

The letters warn the telecoms they’ll face the same consequences if they don’t inform the FCC and the Traceback Consortium within 14 days of the steps taken to implement effective measures to prevent customers from using the network to make illegal calls. Failure to act within the deadlines may result in the agency telling all U.S.-based carriers they can permanently block all call traffic transmitting from Tellza and R Squared Telecom.

Tuesday’s letters follow a batch of six cease-and-desist letters sent by the agency last month, Inside Towers reported. Each of those carriers said they’ve stopped carrying the offending traffic. They also told the Commission how they will prevent customers from using the network to make illegal calls in the future. 

Finally, the agency debuted a new effort to itemize the completion of its work to protect consumers from illegal robocalls. The new webpage outlines the FCC’s progress in using its strengthened enforcement authority, progress on updated call blocking rules, and steps taken to implement new Caller ID authentication technology.  It also details the agency’s work to address one-ring scams, protect hospitals from illegal robocalls, and establish a reassigned numbers database.

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