FCC proposes tougher action against robocalls with blocking by default

Phone companies would be encouraged to block spam calls under FCC proposal

This follows adoption of new rules in 2017 which allowed blocking of calls before they reach consumers when they are highly likely to be illegitimate.

The FCC's proposal also would allow providers to offer customers an even more aggressive form of blocking than the default option.

The FCC said the order still could help telecom carriers and their customers battle back against robocall fraudsters that use a tactic known as spoofing, which makes it appear as if they're calling from a legitimate number that's similar to the one they're trying to target.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put forward a proposal that would make it legal for phone companies to block unwanted robocalls by default. It would also allow consumers to block calls not on their own contact list, according to the agency.

Pai said many service providers have held off developing and deploying default call-blocking tools because of uncertainty about whether the tools are legal under the FCC rules. That means a customer could tell his or her phone company, I only want people whose numbers I have in my phone to be allowed to get through.

Reuters reports the us telecommunications regulator is expected to approve Pai's proposal at its June 6 meeting.

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Congress expressed frustration with illegal robocalls in April and reintroduced bipartisan legislation called the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Defense Act (aka the Traced Act). He raised the threat of regulatory action "if the companies do not take the steps necessary to protect consumers".

In November, Pai wrote to the chief executive officers of major providers including AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, demanding they launch the system no later than 2019 to combat robocalls. "For too long the @FCC has wasted time holding workshops and summits instead of holding bad actors responsible", said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is a Democrat.

A new report from caller ID service Hiya found that Americans received a whopping 26.3 billion spam calls in 2018.

The call-blocking company YouMail issues estimates of nationwide robocalls each month. The number breaks down to an average of 10 monthly calls per person.

The FCC's efforts come in response to a growing chorus of critics who feel the US government hasn't acted swiftly or aggressively enough to punish scammers who place unwanted calls or texts to consumers, and has been lax in efforts to prod telecom carriers to improve their anti-robocall technology.

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