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Proposed FCC Call Blocking Rules Draw Widespread Comments to Balance Protecting Businesses and Consumers


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Voice service providers and industry stakeholders, including ACA International, share concerns on the impact of the FCC’s plans to mitigate illegal robocalls.

8/2/2019 1:00

Dozens of comments filed on the Federal Communications Commission’s call authentication and blocking proposals in the last month show numerous industry concerns about widespread call blocking by carriers; the level of safe harbor protections for carriers; and implementation of the call authentication framework.

In the Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) on Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls, 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.”

Comments from the caller side, including industry associations ACA International partnered with to file comments on the proposed rulemaking, show the FCC needs to strike a balance between call blocking that protects consumers and a framework that allows legitimate businesses to reach those consumers and easily correct erroneously blocked calls.

Carrier comments, including from AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, include support of a strong, broad, safe harbor allowing blocking of illegal robocalls; implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR call authentication framework by all carriers; and further definition of “critical calls” by the FCC with input from all industry stakeholders, including carriers and public safety departments.

Comments from smaller and rural voice service providers show concern with implementing the SHAKEN/STIR framework by the FCC’s comment deadline this year.

The FCC received 68 comment filings on the FNPRM in the last 30 days; and more than 1,500 to date since the proposal was first introduced in March 2017, according to the FCC’s docket.

The docket also shows feedback on the FCC’s Call Authentication Trust Anchor focusing on implementation of the SHAKEN/STIR framework yielded 57 comments in the last month and more than 600 since its introduction in April 2017.

The FCC is now tasked with reviewing the compelling comments as it develops the rules for the industry.

ACA also submitted a 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.

ACA and the group of associations commenting on the FNPRM provided suggestions to the FCC as it moves forward with call authentication and blocking through comments outlining how legitimate calls to consumers can be protected while reducing frivolous litigation and regulatory overlap.

Companies in the accounts receivable management industry also submitted comments to the FCC overall in line with ACA’s feedback calling for a narrow, well-defined safe harbor; clarity on the mandatory aspects of call blocking under the SHAKEN/STIR framework; and timely notice to callers and subscribers when calls are blocked.

ACA is continuing 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 and its association partners also 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.

Reply comments to the Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are due Aug. 23, 2019.

Related Content from ACA International:

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

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