Businesses object to FCC’s plan to block robocalls

Debt collectors, banks, healthcare providers and other businesses are voicing objections to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to allow phone companies to block unwanted calls.


Pai has proposed allowing wireless carriers to block unwanted calls to their customers “by default.”


In a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking draft, Pai outlined a policy that would create a safe harbor for providers that implement network-wide blocking of calls that fail caller authentication under the SHAKEN/STIR framework. The new rules would also allow carriers to help consumers to block calls not on their own contact list.


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The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that lobbyists representing a spectrum of businesses met with FCC officials last week to urge the regulatory body to delay its planned vote on the proposal, slated for June 6.


Those firms fear the rule may result in carriers blocking important calls from businesses that are trying to reach their customers. Banks and debt collectors in particular, who consider automated calls to be “crucial,” according to WSJ, fear that their calls would be blocked under the new system.


Representatives of the debt collection trade body ACA International, the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management, the Credit Union National Association and the American Bankers Association, were among those who met with Federal Communications Commission staff to discuss the proposal.


Some of the representatives warned that the proposal could prevent some companies from complying with existing consumer protection rules that require them to contact customers under certain circumstances. Others argued that the proposal would not give consumers nor customers the opportunity to know that a call had been blocked. Some companies have also argued that the rule could create a public safety issue, if urgent communications not deemed “emergency communications” are able to be blocked.


Illegal robocalls and caller ID-spoofing spam calls have experienced a surge in recent years. According to call management and software firm First Orion, spam calls accounted for just 3.7% of all phone calls made to smartphones in 2017. But in 2018, 29% of all calls to mobile phones were spam. That number was expected to reach 44% during the first months of 2019.


Lobbyists asked the FCC to seek public comment on the proposal, according to WSJ.