FCC Needs Balanced Approach in Robocall Mitigation Efforts

robocall mitigation efforts In comments to the FCC, ACA International and joint industry trade groups call for robocall mitigation efforts that won’t result in blocking legitimate calls.

08/23/2022 12:15 P.M.

4 minute read

A recent proposed rulemaking from the Federal Communications Commission on foreign-originated illegal robocalls and call authentication is drawing concerns from joint industry trade groups that it will result in legitimate, lawful calls being blocked.

To present those concerns and possible solutions, ACA International, the Credit Union National Association, American Financial Services Association, National Council of Higher Education Resources, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance (joint industry trade groups) filed comments with the FCC on the proposal under Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls and Call Authentication Trust Anchor Docket No. 17-59.

For background, the FCC is considering more robocall mitigation efforts in a notice of proposed rulemaking focused on foreign-originated illegal robocalls and call authentication, among other topics, ACA previously reported.

The FCC says in the proposal it is taking further steps to stop foreign-originated illegal robocalls and is seeking comments on additional ways to address such calls.

ACA and the joint industry trade groups reviewed key issues in the proposal, including requiring telecom companies to treat so-called non-conversational traffic differently than “conversational traffic,” before filing the comments.

The joint industry trade groups have been active participants in the FCC’s efforts to curb illegal robocalls while also minimizing the blocking and mislabeling of legitimate calls and enabling effective redress when legal calls are inadvertently blocked.

In these initial comments, the joint industry trade groups address three discrete issues raised in the proposed rulemaking: imposing additional obligations on providers originating non-conversational traffic; extending Caller ID authentication to non-IP networks; and restricting access to or use of U.S. numbers for calls originating outside of the U.S.

Non-conversational traffic is typically high volume autodialed calls. Similar to the problem with the use of “reasonable analytics,” both legal and illegal autodialed calls could fall in this category. Any attempt to impose additional requirements on telecom providers carrying non-conversational traffic (assuming that could be sufficiently defined) risks having carriers either refuse to carry such traffic or puts them at such risk that they impose new costs on callers. Non-conversational traffic could easily include alerts or other informational calls, which means the FCC should be cautious in how it approaches that component of the proposed rulemaking.

The joint industry trade groups note in the comments their appreciation of the commission’s concern and efforts to curb illegal robocalls originating outside of the U.S. for termination in this country; however, as with all measures to address illegal robocalls, the commission should strive to strike an appropriate balance that minimizes the blocking of legitimate calls and does not erode the ability of companies to engage in wanted or needed communications with their customers.

There are numerous legitimate uses of U.S. numbers in caller ID for calls that originate in foreign countries. The joint industry trades groups’ member companies have foreign-based offices, including on military bases, that originate calls back to the U.S. and some have calling centers in foreign countries that address consumer concerns or questions. The use of foreign-based call centers or agents enables round-the-clock service and availability and helps ensure prompt customer engagement if domestic call centers or agents are busy or otherwise unavailable.

In the comments, the joint industry trade groups outline that barring the use of U.S. numbers in caller ID for foreign-originated calls is unnecessary and would unduly restrict the ability of U.S. companies to operate overseas and effectively serve their customer base. There is also a concern that adopting a special area code to indicate that a call originated outside of the U.S. would result in those calls not being answered.

As a proposed solution, the joint industry trade groups respectfully urge the FCC to avoid imposing excessive restrictions on providers that originate and transmit “non-conversational traffic, which also appears to include communications such as fraud alerts, school closings, payment reminders and many other types of legitimate calls that members routinely make to their customers.” The joint industry trade groups also urge the FCC to take further steps to curb illegal spoofing by requiring voice service providers using non-IP networks to authenticate caller ID using commercially available technology.

Overall, the joint industry trade groups seek a balanced approach to mitigating illegal robocalls and reducing illegal number spoofing. The commission could, however, consider taking additional steps to prevent the unrestricted proliferation of U.S. number resale that could enhance the ability of foreign-based bad actors to engage in fraudulent activity.

Read the joint industry trade groups’ complete comments here.

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