ACA Leads Effort to Ensure Legitimate Call Lines Remain Open to Consumers

ACA and partner associations' comments on FCC proposed rulemaking support overall goal to eliminate illegal automated calls with recommendations to protect communications consumers want and need.

7/25/2019 1:30 PM

ACA Leads Effort to Ensure Legitimate Call Lines Remain Open to Consumers

ACA International and a group of associations are providing suggestions to the Federal Communications Commission as it moves forward with call authentication and blocking. The associations' comments outline how legitimate calls consumers want and need can be protected while reducing frivolous litigation and regulatory overlap.

“The SHAKEN/STIR (call authentication) framework must be designed to ensure that important, and often time-sensitive, calls that association members and other organizations place to their customers are not blocked,” state the joint comments on FCC’s third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls.

The comments build on ACA’s efforts to engage with the FCC and fellow industry professionals to ensure an appropriate call authentication framework is in place for businesses and consumers as modern communication technology evolves.

ACA also submitted a separate comment letter to the FCC welcoming the efforts to develop clear, reasonable rules enabling consumers to receive important, lawful communications. Rules targeting bad actors and stopping unlawful calls are needed to stop unwarranted litigation impacting consumers and legitimate businesses, particularly under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

In the third notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC seeks to encourage implementation of a framework for authenticating calls (SHAKEN/STIR framework) by proposing a safe harbor from liability under the call completion rules for voice service providers that choose to block calls, or a subset of calls, that are not authenticated under that framework. The commission also proposes to mandate adoption of SHAKEN/STIR if major voice service providers do not do so voluntarily by December 2019, and to create a mechanism to provide information to consumers about the effectiveness of providers’ “robocall solutions.”

In the comments, ACA and its association partners encourage the FCC to work with other regulators, especially the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, when considering rules regarding the labeling and blocking of calls. The CFPB’s proposed rule under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act would impose restrictions on the number and frequency of calls that third-party collectors may place to consumers. In addition, the label of “debt collector” may pose a risk that the caller is disclosing the existence of a debt to third parties in violation of the FDCPA.

In summary, the associations’ comments to the FCC include:

  • The commission should require voice service providers to notify callers and consumers of blocked calls and remove erroneous blocks expeditiously in order to receive safe harbor protection. Voice service providers should establish procedures to enable callers to correct erroneously blocked calls. This requirement would implement congressional direction in the Senate’s Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act that the FCC not “support blocking or mislabeling calls from legitimate businesses.” It is also consistent with the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives July 24 in requiring the commission to ensure that call-blocking services provided to consumers have “effective redress options” for erroneously blocked calls that resolve such blocks with “no additional charge to callers.”
  • When the SHAKEN/STIR framework is fully implemented, the commission should only permit blocking of calls that are not authenticated or are placed illegally. The framework must be designed to ensure that important, and often time-sensitive, calls that association members and other organizations place to their customers are not blocked.
  • Any safe harbor in the call authentication framework should narrowly apply to the blocking of calls that fail SHAKEN/STIR and only after carriers have fully implemented the framework. This would minimize the likelihood of overbroad or erroneous call blocking. Once voice service providers have implemented SHAKEN/STIR, the commission should update the June 2019 Declaratory Ruling and clarify that voice service providers may no longer rely on “reasonable analytics” to block “unwanted” “robocalls” on an opt-out basis.
  • ACA urges the commission to expand the categories of calls that should be included on voice service providers’ Critical Calls List and not blocked, such as fraud alerts, data breach notifications, healthcare reminders, and mortgage servicing calls required by federal or state law.
  •  ACA and its partner associations also recommend that the commission, in assessing the effectiveness of voice service providers’ solutions to the problem of illegal automated calls, measure and report annually on the number of calls that voice service providers have blocked erroneously.

“The FCC, carriers, legitimate callers, and consumers share a mutual interest in making sure compliance-minded businesses can communicate with their customers, and that consumers continue to receive the calls they want and expect,” said Leah Dempsey, ACA’s vice president and senior counsel of federal advocacy. “Adopting sensible protections for consumers and legitimate callers in this proceeding would help achieve stakeholders’ shared objectives to make telephone networks more reliable for everybody.”

Dempsey and Hogan Lovells Partner Mark Brennan also discussed the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling and Further Notice on Robocall Blocking in a recent Hot Topic webinar for members. A recording of the webinar is now available for members.

FCC Opens Comments on Implementation of Call Authentication Framework; Will it Work to Protect Legitimate Calls?

Update: Concerns for the Accounts Receivable Management Industry on FCC Call Blocking and Labeling Efforts

FCC, Voice Service Providers Review SHAKEN/STIR Progress

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