Networks

FCC Urges Telco Action On Nuisance Calls

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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US telephone companies are still allowing unwanted mass calls and texts in spite of regulatory changes, the FCC says

The chairman of the US’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said he has urged telephone companies in the country to take “concrete” action to block nuisance calls.

The action comes a year after the FCC passed a proposal in June 2015 confirming that communications companies can block such calls, which are often launched by automated systems, before they reach customers, as long as they are asked to do so.

‘Industry inaction’

© Artem Furman - Fotolia.comPreviously phone companies had resisted taking action, in some cases saying that they did not have the legal right to block calls on customers’ behalf.

In a letter sent to major US communications companies, including AT&T, Bandwidth.com, Frontier Communications, Level 3, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said automated calls continue “due in large part to industry inaction”.

The FCC does not require communications companies to offer blocking and filtering services but says the regulator has “strongly encouraged providers to offer these services” at no charge to customers.

The letter said the telephone industry should create a “Do Not Originate” list that would allow government agencies, banks, healthcare providers and others to register numbers that are regularly impersonated by scammers, making it easier to stop fraudulent calls.

No cost

“In regard to the Commission’s expectations that carriers respond to consumers’ blocking requests, I have sent letters to the CEOs of major wireless and wireline phone companies calling on them to offer call-blocking services to their customers now – at no cost to you,” Wheeler said in a blog post.

He said he expects “concrete, actionable” plans from the companies within 30 days.

Providers “have suggested that blocking should wait until new Caller ID authentication standards are in place, but that is not a valid excuse for delay,” he wrote.

Tom Power, general counsel at CTIA, the wireless trade association, said in a statement that the organisation looks forward to “working with the FCC to help address this challenge together”.

The FCC receives more complaints about automated nuisance calls and text messages than any other issue, with hundreds of thousands of complaints filed each year.

The agency has brought 13 enforcement actions for the problem since 2013, and last year fined a Florida company nearly $3 million (£2.3m) for mass calls promoting travel deals.

Earlier this year the the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) handed out a record £350,000 fine to a firm responsible for 46 million automated calls, prompting the company to go into liquidation.

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