FCC Gives Phone Companies End-Run to Fight Robocalls

Orlando-based Jen Vargas uses an AT&T app on her cellphone to help locate and block fraudulent calls. Some robocalls still get through. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Answering a growing call from the public and their representatives in Congress, the Federal Communications Commission paved the way Thursday for phone companies to block robocalls without getting permission first from their customers.  

Currently, phone companies offer call-blocking services to their customers, but the customers must actively sign up for the products. The vote on Thursday makes it so phone companies can offer call-blocking to customers as a default. 

The FCC is also now allowing companies to offer subscribers a service that would let them block all calls from numbers not on a pre-approved list. The commission agreed to ask for input on whether it should require phone companies to adopt a type of caller-ID authentication that would make it more difficult for scammers to hide what number they are actually calling from.  

“With adoption of this item, the commission continues its multi-pronged strategy to combat unwanted and illegal robocalls,” the commission said in a statement. 

The move from the FCC comes at a time of increased focus from Washington on robocalls, a scourge that has grown worse thanks to ever-cheaper software. YouMail, which tracks the issue, reported in January that the United States saw an estimated 48 million robocalls in 2018, some 17.7 billion of which it classified as scams. 

The Senate in May passed a bill aimed at curbing illegal robocalls by levying significant fines on scammers and requiring phone companies to create call-blocking technology.

%d bloggers like this: