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FCC Rolls Out Bipartisan Plan to Combat Robocalls

The new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, introduced a plan to combat “spoofed” robocalls. These are calls that mask their origin by showing another phone number on the caller ID. Scammers do this in order to try to get through to unwary consumers. Some calls come from outside the United States, and those bad actors intentionally conceal the origin of their calls to show they are coming from inside the country when they are not.

The FCC fact sheet with the notice of proposed rulemaking on robocalls can be found here.

According to the fact sheet, the proposed rule on robocalls:

Proposes to adopt rules that providers may block spoofed robocalls when the subscriber to a particular telephone number requests that calls originating from that number be blocked (sometimes called “DoNot-Originate”). This proposal builds on a clarification made by the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau in 2016 at the request of the industry’s Robocall Strike Force.

Proposes to adopt rules that providers may block spoofed robocalls when the spoofed Caller ID can’t possibly be valid, including numbers that haven’t been assigned to anyone yet.

Seeks special comment on how to address spoofing from internationally-originated numbers, where scammers often hide to avoid U.S. legal processes

This plan will build off an initiative from former Chairman Tom Wheeler; Wheeler requested carrier assistance in solving the problem, according to Law360.

The proposal will have bipartisan support, according to experts – unusual in Washington today. Wilson G. Barmeyer of Eversheds Sutherland LLP emphasized the bipartisan appeal in a statement to Law360:

“I think that reasonable people in both parties generally agree that illegal and fraudulently spoofed calls are a problem that we’d all like to put an end to, so this is an area where there can be cooperation from folks with different interests to try to fix a problem.”

The plan is also notable in that the telecommunications industry has been a partner in its development. Robert H. Jackson of Marashlian & Donahue LLC said in a statement to Law360:

“The people who really know this stuff are the people who work for the service providers and the equipment providers that write the software, do the code, these are the experts,” Jackson said. “The way to solve these problems is to go to the industry and get them together … I’m sure 80 percent of what’s in the [notice of proposed rulemaking] and [notice of inquiry] came from ideas that they picked up from the industry.”

Check back with Consumers’ Research for coverage of this initiative. Also, read Consumers’ Research’s guide on how to protect yourself from telemarketing and other nuisance spam calls.

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