WPF supports new FCC proposal to reduce robocalls and give consumers more choice

The FCC has announced that it will be considering a declaratory order and ruling June 18, 2015 on more than 20 petitions about robocalls. The ruling would update and clarify the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The news is very good for consumers, because the FCC has stated clearly in its announcement that phone companies must do more to stop robocalls and unwanted texts to mobile numbers. The FCC has also proposed to close some major loopholes that have been facilitating obnoxious autodialing and texting. This is an important consumer issue, and it is an important privacy issue for all consumers. It is especially so for vulnerable consumers like seniors.

Robocalls and slick texts designed to lure consumers into giving up details such as bank account numbers or Social Security Numbers have been on the rise in the past three years. All too often, the individuals at the other end of the line are fraudsters looking to cash in on consumer information. With the increase in data breaches that expose consumer phone numbers, robocalls and mobile text “smishing” — or SMS phishing — has finally increased to the breaking point. One person who complained to the FCC received 4,700 unwanted texts over 6 months. Another received 27,809 unsolicited texts over the course of a year and a half.

The World Privacy Forum welcomes the FCC announcement and strongly supports the proposal. It will help all consumers have more choices about the texts and calls they receive on their landlines, VOIP, and mobile devices, and it will help protect vulnerable consumers from aggressive and fraudulent bad actors. It is also a good step to reduce the value of ill-gotten phone numbers through data breaches.

The key points in the FCC proposal are:

1. The FCC has given a green light for robocall blocking technology. It has definitively declared that by offering robocall blocking technology, that phone companies are not violating the FCC call-completion rules. This was a key obstacle for the phone companies in the past, and one of the main reasons telecommunications companies said they could not block robocalls at the source.

2. The FCC went even further and said that the telephone companies can and should offer consumers robocall blocking tools.

3. The FCC also proposed closing some loopholes that had allowed some skirting of the rules. One of the most important is that the FCC has made it easier for consumers to opt-out of robocalls and unwanted texts. Up until now, consumers had to opt-out via a mailed paper form. The update to allow consumers to use any reasonable way to say no is something that was long overdue.The FCC also tightened the definition of autodialers. Now an autodialer includes “any technology with the potential to dial random or sequential numbers.” This was a smart and necessary update.

More details and info:

The FCC announcement is here.

FCC Fact Sheet on its Consumer Protection Proposal is here.

More information on the June FCC meeting is here.

 WPF appeared on ABC News recently regarding the problems with robocalls. The segment is online and can be viewed here.