FCC To Allow Carriers To Block Robocalls To Consumers By Default

Robocalls
U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman (FCC) Ajit Pai (Photo: Reuters)

In an effort to protect consumers from millions of unsolicited robocalls in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a new regulation that would allow communications networks to block unwanted robocalls by default. If the agency's plans are approved, it could significantly drop the number of robocalls consumers will receive in the coming months.

The FCC's proposal doesn't necessarily compel carriers to block robocalls by default, but it does provide them with the option to do so.

The regulation would remove any legal liabilities from the telecommunications providers if they should choose to shield their customers from unwanted automated calls. This has been one of the biggest hurdles for carriers in the past, with most expressing their reluctance to offer the service due to legal liabilities.

According to the FCC's chairman, Ajit Pai, robocalls are the top complaint his agency receives from consumers each and every year. Pai further explained that the regulation would allow companies to block these types of illegal and unwanted calls.

As it stands, consumers still need to personally opt-in for telecoms to block unwanted calls. If the proposal is enacted, consumers would need to do the opposite and opt out of the default call blocking service.

The FCC explained that the way the system would work will be similar to spam email filters, in that known sources of automated calls and those from fake numbers will automatically be blocked. The agency is also pushing for phone companies to establish their own authentication and security measures to check if a call is really coming from the number indicated in their caller ID systems. This is to combat a system used by a number of scammers and some marketers to "mask" their numbers.

According to reports, the number of robocalls made last month alone is estimated to be around 4.9 billion calls or an average of 14.9 calls per person in the United States. A vast majority of these calls are coming from scammers, who are using automated systems to find victims. More often than not, these calls from coming from numbers that are "spoofed" or from faked numbers.

Unlike email filters, automatically blocking robocalls will be much more difficult.

Phone companies would have to establish a system that would be able to figure out which calls are scams and which ones are calls that customers would want to get. Several government agencies, such as those that ring customers to announced important updates like school closings, also use the same kind of technologies to send out automated messages.  

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