FCC responds to Robocall complaints

by Katie Ritchie

Did you hear the good news? We might finally get some relief from robocalls.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to give cell phone companies more power to block unwanted robocalls.

The FCC said robocalls are the top complaint they get from consumers. This isn’t a surprise to anyone with a phone line.

The new rules will allow wireless companies to automatically block robocalls. Customers will have the option to opt into or out of blocking services. They will also be able to block calls from unknown numbers or from other harassers as they always have.

This action is not unprompted. Congress reintroduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement Act (TRACED Act) in April. The bipartisan legislation has passed the Senate and is headed for the House. The legislation would criminalize illegal robocalling, and improve enforcement. It would also mandate phone companies to use technology that addresses phone number spoofing. The new tech can validate if calls are coming from where they say they are.

The primary objection is that some legitimate robocalls might get blocked by mistake. Automated appointment calls from doctors offices, pharmacies, and tech support centers are examples.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai acknowledged his proposal is imperfect. He says citizens want action now. Data from YouMail, a visual voicemail service, suggests 2.5 billion illegal robocalls took place in March 2019. FCC economists claim that amounts to $3 billion annually just in lost time. That says nothing of the money lost when fraud happens.

Next week: Do you have a grandchild interested in learning computer programming? This new, free SC program could help them.