FCC First Report on Illegal Robocalls

On February 14, 2019, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released its first report on illegal robocalls (“the Robocall Report”) to address the “onslaught of unwanted calls that has led a lot of consumers to stop answering the phone altogether.” This report is compiled based on data points from more than forty comments submitted by voice service providers, trade associations, analytics companies, and consumers. The Robocall Report provided summary analysis on the following issues:

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As the 115th Congress Winds Down, a New Senate Bill Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Illegal Robocalling

Reflecting the nearly universal sense by constituents that call spoofing and other illegal forms of robocalls are annoying and unwelcome, on November 15, a bipartisan team of United States senators, Senators Markey, Thune and Wicker, introduced a bill titled the “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act” also known as the TRACED Act. The bill is designed to provide the FCC and other federal agencies acting in concert with the FCC with additional tools to combat spoofing and other illegal robocalling operations by amending Section 227 of the Communications Act to provide for enhanced civil penalties for violation of TCPA rules. Specifically, the bill would provide the FCC going forward with forfeiture authority to assess civil penalties of up to $10,000 per illegal robocall violation and extend the current FCC statute of limitations to investigate TCPA violations from the current one year to three years. The bill also creates new criminal fines of up to $10,000 per violation that can be trebled if the activity was intentional. The FCC would have 270 days following enactment to develop implementing regulations. The bill does not introduce any changes to the current private right of action provisions of Section 227 of the Act. Continue reading   »

Senators Urge FCC to Act in the Face of ACA Int’l

On April 18, 2018, a group of fifteen Democratic senators addressed a letter to FCC Chairman Pai related to the D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in ACA Int’l v. Fed. Commc’ns Comm’n, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018). The letter notes that the ACA decision “struck down portions of a 2015 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order limiting the definition of automatic telephone dialing systems (auto dialers), which are technologies that can be used to rapidly call and text large groups of consumers,” and expresses concern that “[w]hile the Court maintained the right to revoke consent, the Court’s ruling could be interpreted to suggest that callers could limit consumers’ method to revoke consent to receive robocalls and robotexts through provisions buried in contracts or service agreements,” which would “upend the meaning and the goals of the TCPA.” The senators ask Chairman Pai and the FCC to take the following actions: Continue reading   »

FCC and FTC to Co-Host Technology Expo Aimed at Combatting Illegal Robocalls

As we previously reported, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission recently issued a joint announcement regarding two events “aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.” The first event was a joint policy forum that was held on March 23, 2018. The second event, which will be held on April 23, 2018, is an expo that will “showcase technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive.”

The free and public expo will feature brief remarks from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen, as well as demonstrations from the following companies:

  • AT&T
  • Call Control
  • Comcast Corporation
  • Digitone Communications
  • First Orion Corp.
  • Hiya
  • Neustar Communications
  • Nomorobo
  • Reverd LLC
  • Scammer Jammer
  • South Coast Telecom Inc.
  • T-Mobile
  • TNS
  • Verizon
  • VTech Communications, Inc.
  • YouMail

Additional information on the Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo is available here.

FCC and FTC Announce Two Upcoming Joint Events Aimed at Combatting Illegal Robocalls

On March 7, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint announcement regarding two upcoming events “aimed at furthering the fight against illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing.” The announcement states that the events will “highlight cooperative efforts by the two agencies to combat illegal calls and promote innovative solutions to protect consumers.” The first event is a policy forum the two agencies will be co-hosting on March 23, 2018. The agencies intend to discuss “the regulatory challenges posed by illegal robocalls and what the FCC and FTC are doing to both protect consumers and encourage the development of private-sector solutions” at the forum. Additional information on the forum is available here. The second event is an expo the two agencies will be co-hosting on April 23, 2018. The Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo will showcase “technologies, devices, and applications to minimize or eliminate the illegal robocalls consumers receive.” Additional information on the expo, including how to participate in the expo, is available here.

FTC Issues Biennial Report on the National Do-Not-Call Registry

On December 22, 2017, the FTC issued its Biennial Report to Congress on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, which lists the telephone numbers at which individuals have requested that they not be called by telemarketers. The report provides an overview of the Registry’s operations for 2016 and 2017 and guidance for continued compliance with the Registry in 2018 and beyond.  The key takeaways from the Report are discussed below. Continue reading   »

FCC Releases Two Notices of Inquiry Addressing Reassigned Numbers and Caller ID Spoofing

The FCC released two notices of inquiry (NOIs) related to TCPA issues last week: one on how to better track reassigned numbers, and another on tightening industry wide techniques to discourage Caller ID spoofing, one category of illegal robocalls. Each NOI seeks public comment. Continue reading   »

FCC Holds Webinar On “How to Deal with Robocalls”

Yesterday, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau held an informational webinar titled “How to Deal with Robocalls.” Kristi Thornton (Associate Division Chief, Consumer Policy Division) began by providing background on the TCPA and robocalls, as well as recent FCC actions pertaining to federal debt collection calls and the emergency purposes exception as it relates to calls placed by schools and utility companies. We previously reported on these actions here and here. Continue reading   »

FCC to Hold Webinar on How to Deal with Robocalls

On December 14th, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will be hosting a free webinar for consumers entitled “How to Deal with Robocalls.” The purpose of the webinar is to provide information about consumers’ rights, the FCC’s role in addressing the issue of unwanted telemarketing robocalls, and the steps consumers can take to protect themselves from and/or decrease the amount of robocalls they receive. Individuals may participate via WebEx (audio and video) or by conference call. A detailed agenda is scheduled to be released in advance of the webinar. We will report back with observations and statements.

Robocall Blocking “Strike Force” Initiated at FCC Chairman’s Request

For some time the FCC’s Chairman, Tom Wheeler, has been calling on wireless and wireline carriers alike to take more aggressive steps to assist consumers in preventing unwelcome or unsolicited calls and spam messages. The FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling, for example, contained a discussion focused on resolving the question of whether carriers had a legal obligation to transmit all calls without blocking. In the Matter of Rules & Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, 30 FCC Rcd 7961, ¶¶ 152-63 (July 10, 2015). The Declaratory Ruling affirmed that nothing in the Communications Act or FCC rules or orders prohibits carriers from offering or implementing call blocking technologies for those customers who choose to use them. Id. Continue reading   »