During its May open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission considered a Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Notice of Inquiry that would expand call-blocking requirements, enlist service providers in the fight against unwanted robocalls, and seek comment on several other options to further enhance consumer protections.
According to the Commission, “[u]nwanted call complaints continue to be far-and-away the largest category of consumer complaints to the FCC, with approximately 157,000 in 2020, 164,000 in 2021, [and] 119,000 in 2022.” Last year, U.S. consumers reported a total of $798 million lost to fraud via phone call.
In an effort to address this harm, the FCC is seeking public comment on a variety of proposed anti-robocall tools and strategies, including: requiring voice service providers to adopt analytics-based blocking of calls that are highly likely to be illegal, without charge to consumers; requiring providers to block calls based on do-not-originate lists; requiring the display of caller name information in certain cases; and increasing forfeitures for voice service providers that fail to comply with the Commission’s rules. Additionally, the FCC seeks input on how it can leverage new technologies to combat illegal calls, including “honeypots” (unassigned numbers used to identify robocalls), and how to improve the use and accuracy of call labeling.
Further, according to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released the same day, the FCC plans to codify and seek comment on a number of consent-related issues under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which does not define “prior express consent” or otherwise provide guidance relating to how consumers may provide or revoke consent to receive robocalls. Among other things, this Notice would propose to:
- require that callers and texters honor company-specific do-not-call and revocation-of-consent requests subject to the TCPA within 24 hours of receipt;
- codify the Commission’s 2015 ruling that consumers can revoke consent under the TCPA through any reasonable means; and
- codify the Commission’s Soundbite Declaratory Ruling clarification that robotexters can send a one-time text message confirming a consumer’s revocation of consent, as long as the text only confirms the called party’s request and does not include any marketing or promotional information.
The Notice was made publicly available for tentative consideration by the Commission at its June open meeting and is subject to change. Comments will be due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.