As the FCC continues its efforts to stop illegal robocalls, ACA International and joint industry trade groups urge the commission to keep legitimate calls flowing and strengthen services to notify callers if they are blocked or mislabeled.
08/11/2023 10:30 A.M.
5 minute read
In comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s ongoing proposed rulemakings to stop illegal robocalls, ACA International and joint industry trade groups in banking, mortgages and student loans stress changes that need to be made to ensure legitimate and important calls to consumers are getting through.
The FCC is moving forward with a proposed rule that would implement call blocking notification requirements for voice service providers, among other items.
Of note for members and the accounts receivable management industry, the FCC is expanding proposed requirements for voice service providers to block illegal robocalls, while also reviewing measures to ensure legitimate calls get through.
Here are highlights from ACA’s comments (PDF) filed along with the American Bankers Association, American Financial Services Association, Consumer Bankers Association, Credit Union National Association, Mortgage Bankers Association, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, National Council of Higher Education Resources and Student Loan Servicing Alliance on the FCC’s 8th Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and 3rd Notice of Inquiry in CG Docket 17-59 on call blocking and labeling.
Overall, the associations strongly support the FCC’s efforts to combat illegal calls while at the same time protecting the lawful and consumer-benefiting calls that our members place.
“Banks, credit unions, and other financial services providers—and their customers—are negatively impacted by bad actors that increasingly place calls that impersonate legitimate companies with intent to defraud. These bad actors at times illegally ‘spoof’ phone numbers belonging to our members by causing the call recipient’s caller ID to display the name of a legitimate company instead of the name of the actual caller, who is seeking to defraud the recipient,” the comments state. “As the [c]ommission takes additional action to combat illegal calls, we also urge the [c]ommission to protect the lawful and consumer-benefiting calls that our members place.”
Call Blocking Justification
The FCC proposes to require terminating providers to offer consumers “analytics-based blocking of calls that are highly likely to be illegal” on an opt-out basis without charge to consumers.
If the FCC passes this requirement, it becomes even more imperative that providers appropriately identify these calls. However, three of the attributes of these calls—large bursts of calls in a short timeframe, low average call duration, and low call completion ratios—may also characterize lawful calls placed by legitimate businesses.
Therefore, the FCC should clarify that these factors are not alone sufficient reasoning for a voice service provider to block calls and they should instead be required to demonstrate another indication if a call is illegal to block it based on analytics.
Do Not Originate
The FCC proposes to require all voice service providers to block calls using a “reasonable do not originate” (DNO) list—i.e., a list of phone numbers from which an outbound call is highly likely to be illegal from which calls should not originate.
The associations support the FCC’s efforts to combat illegal call spoofing, including mandating blocking of calls on a reasonable DNO list and the proposal to limit the numbers that can be included on a reasonable DNO list to invalid, unallocated, and unused numbers, as well as numbers for which the subscriber to the number has requested that outbound calls purporting to be from the number be blocked.
However, the FCC should not expand the category of numbers that can be placed on a DNO list unless the agency has identified an additional category of numbers that have clear indicia that the calls were placed illegally.
The FCC sought feedback on the codes used to notify businesses of call blocking.
SIP Codes 603 and 607 do not provide a distinction between whether the call’s recipient declined the call, or the provider blocked the call in the network. These codes are not appropriate to signify analytics-based blocking to callers.
Another code, SIP Code 603+, appears to provide the requisite information for meaningful notification, but the associations urge the FCC not to endorse SIP Code 603+ until that code has been tested and implemented.
The FCC also sought information on the current state of call labeling, such as the practice by voice service providers and their third-party analytics service providers to label calls, such as “fraud” or “scam,” in the call recipient’s Caller ID display.
The associations’ members outbound calling numbers—used to place lawful, consumer-benefiting calls—continue to be mislabeled as “spam” or other derogatory labels.
In response, the FCC should promptly initiate a notice of proposed rulemaking to require voice service providers and their third-party analytics service providers to provide real-time notification to callers of a derogatory label and an opportunity to dispute the label. The FCC sought comment on this in 2020, and calls continue to be mislabeled.
Some ACA members have hired companies to track their calls to determine if they have been mislabeled and then work with the labeling entity to try to remove the label. For ACA members, the application of a label to a call poses the risk of disclosing the existence of debts to third parties, which could be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
ACA’s advocacy team continues to work with the FCC on behalf of members to ensure it understands the industry’s need for communications with consumers to be protected while supporting mitigation against bad actors.
This request for comment is an opportunity to advance that advocacy and provide industry input on call blocking notification procedures.
For members, communication with your phone carriers is key to understanding their obligations and to minimize the chances that your calls will be blocked or mislabeled, or, if they are, how to get them unblocked. Similar discussions can reduce the threat of blocked text messages.
ACA recently issued resources to navigate that communication with your phone carriers, including a memorandum on telephone companies’ robocall mitigation obligations and a checklist to review those obligations with your carriers, ACA previously reported.
Meanwhile, the FCC has announced an Aug. 21 effective date for final rules on illegal robocall mitigation and to expand requirements for voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework.
Compliance with the call authentication framework requirements is required by Dec. 31, 2023, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register.