FCC Call Blocking Order November2017

FCC Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Unwanted calls are the top consumer complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and one of the preeminent concerns of consumers.  The FCC receives over 200,000 complaints regarding illegal calling annually and some analysts estimate that U.S. consumers received over 2.4 billion robocalls per month in 2016 alone. 
The increasing availability and intuitiveness of phone and telemarketing technologies have made it easier for scammers to conduct calls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  While solutions like caller ID traditionally provided some relief to consumers, scammers are increasingly employing “spoofing” technology to alter their phone number and hide their identity.  In response, the FCC issued new rules on November 16, 2017 to allow voice service providers (VSPs) to block calls that appear to be from numbers from which a call should never originate.
The FCC’s new rules allow phone companies to proactively place a phone number, at the request of the subscriber to the number, on a “do not originate list” to prevent calls that are likely to be fraudulent.  VSPs may also block calls appearing to originate from invalid, unallocated and unassigned numbers. The FCC and industry-participants recognize that these measures may reduce, but certainly will not eliminate, illegal calls.  Industry-participants had been concerned that the FCC may authorize VSPs to block calls they determine to be “presumptively illegal” but the FCC declined to go that far in this rulemaking.
What PACE Members Need to Know
              PACE continues to represent the interests of members who use telephone calls to engage with consumers and their vendors and PACE representatives met with Chairman Pai’s Office prior to approval of this Report and Order.  During the meeting, PACE expressed concerns that, while well-intentioned, the prevalence of call blocking and labeling technologies following the FCC’s 2015 Declaratory Order & Ruling has led to the over-blocking of many legitimate and lawful calls.  While the FCC’s new rules stop short of allowing VSPs to block presumptively illegal calls, there remains concern that the FCC may permit such blocking in the future without sufficient attention to the consequences of unintended lawful call blocking. As a consequence of PACE’s efforts along with those of others, the FCC issued a further notice of proposed rulemaking seeking information on methods to unblock erroneously blocked numbers and measure the effectiveness of blocking techniques (see paragraphs 57-59 of the Report and Order). Comments are due January 23, 2018. PACE will be filing comments on behalf of its membership and encourages members to review the FCC’s questions and submit specific ideas for the comments. Ideas can be sent to Josh Stevens at Mac Murray & Shuster, LLP, jstevens@mslawgroup.com.
              PACE thanks its members in advance for their input on this important topic.