The proposal to reduce unwanted robocalls as well as a measure to block “robotexts” will be considered by the FCC at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai proposed measures to reduce unwanted robocalls and prevent spam text messaging Tuesday.
First, according to a news release from the FCC, Pai is calling on his fellow commissioners to approve a reassigned numbers database. This database would help legitimate callers know whether telephone numbers have been reassigned to somebody else before calling those numbers so they can direct their calls to parties who asked for them rather than individuals who have subsequently obtained those reassigned numbers. Second, Pai is proposing to make clear that wireless providers are authorized to take measures to stop unwanted text messaging through robotext-blocking, anti-spoofing measures, and other anti-spam features.
“Combatting robocalls is our top consumer protection priority, and these proposals are a significant step forward in that effort. Today, I am calling on the FCC to take additional measures to combat these calls and also to prevent a flood of spam robotexts from clogging Americans’ phones,” Pai said in the news release. “Americans rely on and trust text messaging. That’s why we need to act to prevent a deluge of spam texts and scam messages. I’m also proposing new rules to help reduce robocalls to reassigned numbers by creating a database that will help legitimate businesses stop calling those numbers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting these proposals and continuing our fight against unwanted robocalls and robotexts.
The FCC will consider these items at its next Open Commission Meeting Dec. 12, 2018. The draft Declaratory Ruling on text messaging would formally rule that text-messaging services are information services, not telecommunications services, thus allowing carriers to continue using robotext-blocking and anti-spoofing measures to protect consumers from unwanted text messages. This Declaratory Ruling would rule on a 2015 petition from mass-texting provider Twilio and a 2007 petition from Public Knowledge. The reassigned numbers proposal would establish new rules in order to launch a database of reassigned numbers. This would help prevent accidental robocalls to numbers that are no longer assigned to consumers who signed up to receive those calls, according to the news release.
Calls to reassigned numbers can be a significant problem for those receiving the unwanted calls, those missing the calls they asked for, and for legitimate businesses making calls for which they have prior consent. Millions of phone numbers are reassigned each year and oftentimes consumers do not tell their contacts of the change. To prevent mistaken calls, the draft order would establish a single, comprehensive database of reassigned numbers based on information provided by phone companies that obtain North American Numbering Plan U.S. geographic numbers. After careful, deliberate consideration of the problem, it would also conclude this database would be the most efficient and cost-effective solution.
Robocalls and robotexts are limited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The FCC has repeatedly established that text messages are considered a type of call under the law and thus must abide by all restrictions on robocalls to mobile phones.
ACA International filed comments with the FCC in support of its efforts to combat illegal and fraudulent calls, while reiterating the need for clear interpretations of the TCPA. ACA supported efforts to develop a concise reassigned numbers database in June, urging that it be reasonably priced, accurate and easy to use and include a safe harbor.
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