Enforcement actions include notice to U.S. voice service providers about reportedly unlawful solicitation calls to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, plus cease-and-desist orders to certain providers.
01/26/2023 9:55 A.M.
3.5 minute read
The Federal Communications Commission came out with sweeping actions on reported illegal robocalls Wednesday.
The three separate actions involve PhoneBurner Inc., MV Realty PBC LLC and Twilio for calls related to mortgage servicing for homeowners that were identified as potentially illegal robocalls.
Here is what we know:
- The FCC’s Robocall Response Team and Enforcement Bureau shut down a “robocall scam campaign” targeted at homeowners. “The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau ordered telecommunications companies to effectively mitigate suspected illegal traffic from dialing platform PhoneBurner facilitating apparently illegal robocall traffic from [its client,] real estate brokerage firm MV Realty, to targeted consumers,” according to a news release from the FCC. “The [b]ureau also demanded that voice service provider Twilio cease and desist from carrying the suspected illegal robocall traffic which it was apparently receiving from PhoneBurner.” The FCC’s investigation by the USTelecom Traceback Consortium between May and December 2022 using robocall tracking software found that robocalls were being made to cellphone numbers without consumers’ consent. Twilio, the voice service provider on whose networks these calls were located, was notified about these calls and provided evidence. Twilio told the Traceback Consortium that PhoneBurner had obtained called parties’ consent for the robocalls. Traceback Consortium did not receive evidence of consent from Twilio or PhoneBurner, according to the FCC. At least three state attorneys general have sued MV Realty for various mortgage-related business practices.
- Twilio, for reportedly originating the illegal robocalls on behalf of its clients, received a cease-and-desist letter (PDF) to investigate the traffic and block it if needed. Under FCC rules, providers that originate illegal robocall traffic face blocking of all clients’ calls if they do not take corrective actions issued under FCC rules. It must also investigate the call transmissions, mitigate the unlawful calls, implement safeguards to prevent clients from making illegal calls and inform the FCC and Traceback Consortium of efforts to mitigate the calls and prevent new and existing clients from using its network to transmit illegal robocalls.
- Finally, the FCC issued a robocall enforcement notice (PDF) to all U.S.-based providers of reported illegal robocall traffic from PhoneBurner Inc. and MV Realty PBC. The notice is to inform all providers about the traffic to phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. During the calls, MV Realty reportedly offered money to homeowners in exchange for the company’s right to list the homeowner’s property for sale, according to the FCC. Voice service providers receiving the notice must investigate the call traffic and report the results to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau as well as mitigation efforts. These providers could face additional enforcement actions if they fail to mitigate the call traffic from PhoneBurner and MV Realty or explain to the FCC that the calls are legal.
Illegal robocall mitigation has been a focus of the FCC under the leadership of Chair Jessica Rosenworcel that is expected to continue through enforcement actions and rules.
ACA International and joint industry trade association partners have advocated with the FCC to ensure important illegal robocall blocking measures do not impact calls from legitimate businesses consumers want and need, as documented in a letter (PDF) recapping a meeting with these groups and the FCC on its Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls, CG Docket No. 17-59.
Meanwhile, the FCC’s modified rule on call exemptions and obtaining consumers’ consent will take effect on July 20, 2023, meaning compliance is required for certain call exemptions and call limits by that date, ACA previously reported.
ACA is working on resources to help members meet their compliance responsibilities.
Roughly two years ago, the FCC issued a rule amending its long-standing exemptions rule for certain automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) calls to residential landlines. The amendments generally limit the number of automated, prerecorded voice calls that can be made to a residential line using an ATDS to three calls within a 30-day period.
But those amendments were on hold for more than 18 months during the change in the administration. ACA subsequently filed a petition (PDF) for partial reconsideration of the rule and now, with the FCC’s December 2022 ruling, they have been modified again.
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