Government, phone companies take steps to stop robocalls


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NEW YORK — Jim Duncan says he gets about seven to 10 robocalls a week. For someone whose business is built on getting new clients, he said the pesky calls are “a massive annoyance that really interferes with my business.”

And he’s not the only one receiving the calls. Last month alone, tech company YouMail found consumers received 2.7 billion of those calls.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency has been working hard to stop the calls from coming.

“Both private sector companies and the public sector agencies like the FCC and FTC, I think are on the same page in terms of the priority it deserves and the level of seriousness that we need to address the problem with.”

In the past year, the FCC proposed over $200 million in fines against illegal spoofing by telemarketers, and the commission recently adopted new rules allowing phone companies to block calls that are likely to be fraudulent.

The telecommunications trade group, CTIA said all of the national wireless carriers now offer robocall prevention options T-Mobile launched Scam ID, where the screen indicates “scam likely” for suspected fraudulent calls.

Verizon said it has Spam Alert which warns customers about identified robocalls, and Sprint has Premium Caller ID, which shows a caller’s name if they are not in your contact list.

But consumer groups like the National Consumer Law Center said even with those steps, consumers still get far too many robocalls. They want to see technologies that authenticate, or verify, that a number is valid.

“If the commission really wants to protect consumers quickly, they should put deadlines on the implementation of the authentication requirements,” said Margot Saunders, senior council at the NCLC. “They should mandate that they be implemented as soon as possible.”

“We would encourage that as strongly as we can and work with industry and with other federal agencies.”

Saunders is also concerned about a recent federal ruling she says rolled back some regulations that protect consumers from autodial services like telemarketers. It is now up to the FCC whether to uphold those regulations.

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