Additional Ammunition Available in the Fight Against Robocalls

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In a recent Third Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC has taken another step to stem the tide of annoying, illegal and often fraudulent robocalls. The Order and NPRM numbers referenced in this action show the Commission’s continuing concern about these calls (see, for instance, our blog dated May 26, 2020).

Chairman Pai, in an accompanying statement, touted the FCC’s involvement, “since 2017,” in making “illegal robocalls (its) top consumer protection priority. And that’s why last December, the president and Congress gave us additional tools to help protect consumers from these unwanted calls.”

He continued, “Among other things, the TRACED Act directed us to adopt rules to give voice service providers a safe harbor for the blocking of calls under certain circumstances. And in today’s order, we implement this portion of the TRACED Act by assuring terminating service providers that good-faith blocking of calls will not result in liability under the Communications Act and Commission rules if they inadvertently block wanted calls.

Further, the chairman stated, “This safe harbor is only available to entities that block calls based on reasonable analytics designed to identify unwanted calls.” Regarding “non-IP based calls,” he continued, “this safe harbor is available for blocked calls based on any other effective call authentication framework that satisfies the TRACED Act.”

“We also establish a second safe harbor for voice service providers that block calls from bad actors that continue to allow unwanted calls to traverse their networks,” said Pai. This safe harbor uses information previously issued by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, according to the Chairman. Additionally, robocall blocking providers are now required to provide a single point of contact to resolve any cases of inadvertent blocking, he said. All of us who are bombarded daily by these extremely annoying calls can be thankful to an active, aware and aggressive FCC. Now, let’s hope some of the FCC’s attempts to curb these calls actually work.