Combatting Illegal Robocalls: FCC’s “Top Consumer Protection Priority”

Even U.S. Senators are not immune to illegal robocalls. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) received an automated call purportedly from the FBI, a “final notice” about the need to settle a case with the “Department of Tax and Crime Investigation.” That experience prompted a Senatorial letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking, “what steps have been taken to protect consumers from excessive and predatory robocalls … to date?”

Yesterday’s periodic release of the Chairman’s responses to Congressional inquiries included an answer that cataloged those efforts, including “authorizing carriers to stop certain spoofed robocalls, … [pursuing] the creation of a reassigned numbers database, and … [pushing] industry to establish a robust call-authentication framework.”

The Chairman’s response went on to address in detail the FCC initiative to extend, pursuant to Congressional direction, the FCC’s Truth in Caller ID rules, as part of a “multi-pronged effort to combat unwanted and illegal caller ID spoofing.” In addition, the Chairman reported on calling for carrier action to “develop and implement a robust call authentication system to combat” such spoofing. He expects that large telephone operators will take the necessary steps needed to “ensure that [the] system is on track to become operational in 2019.” Absent prompt action, he warned that “the Commission stands ready to take regulatory action to ensure widespread deployment [of such a system].” Finally, the response noted that the Commission “continues to aggressively enforce the Telephone Consumer Protection Act … as well as the Truth in Caller ID Act.”

The clear FCC message to Senator Merkley is illegal robocallers should beware. The FCC has and is shaping tools to combat such calls – a mission the Chairman said he has made “the Commission’s top consumer protection priority.” A link to Senator Merkley’s inquiry and the Chairman’s response is here.

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