US FCC set to let phone companies block more robocalls

Robocalls Phone carriers could soon protect you from scammers under new FCC proposal

New measures by US regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S.

On Wednesday, Pai issued a declaratory ruling that, if adopted, would allow phone companies to block unwanted robo- and spoofing calls to their customers automatically, not to mention giving the consumer the option to automatically block any phone number that's not in their personal contact list.

Voice service providers may offer opt-out call-blocking programs based on any reasonable analytics created to identify unwanted calls and will have flexibility on how to dispose of those calls, such as sending straight to voicemail, alerting the customer of a robocall, or blocking the call altogether.

One interesting thing to note is that Pai's rules would ask, but not require, carriers to provide these services for free. Today, some of these apps cost extra money, others are free.

"Many voice providers have held off developing and deploying call blocking tools by default because of uncertainty about whether these tools are legal under the FCC's rules".

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"We chose this industry-led path because it is the fastest way to help consumers, but I remain committed to taking regulatory action" if carriers do not act this year, Pai said in a statement on Monday.

Pai's proposal, if adopted, would allow wireless carriers to block those robocalls for customers by default.

"It is not clear if it can stop worldwide robocalls. My questions go to how much it helps", Saunders said, referring to whether consumers would be protected from unwanted debt-collector and telemarketing calls as well as scams. It's unclear how well calls like that would be kept away from consumers under the new proposal, she said.

Hardly anyone needs a reminder of how pervasive the problem of robocalls has become, or how ineffective the action against them has been up to this point. Carriers are able to block calls that come from non-existent area codes, or from calls that are on the Do Not Originate list, meaning those numbers to do not make outbound calls. If they were on by default, more people would naturally benefit from them. "It is the top complaint we receive from consumers each and every year", FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters.

The Senate bill would also give the FCC more power to fine the people responsible for spam calls and puts together federal agencies and state officials to figure out ways to pursue criminal cases against robocall scammers, not just civil ones.

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