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FCC Report on Robocalls Short on Solutions to Fix Problem

The Federal Communications Commission this week released its first ever report on illegal robocalls, and it seems the only conclusions that can be drawn from the document is that illegal robocalls exist, that the FCC is aware of it, and the agency is trying to do what it can to combat the problem.

Beyond that, such as providing data about the extent of the problem or what can be done about legitimate calls that are being blocked and labeled as robocalls or spam, the report remains silent.

The FCC does go as far as to admit that the term “robocall” often includes legal calls, such as those about school closings, and that any data related to robocalls, “without detailed analysis, can blur the lines between legal robocalls, both welcome and unwelcome, and illegal robocalls.”

But the report does nothing to shed light on the size and scope of the problem and what is being done to stop it, other than to rehash steps the FCC has already announced, such as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking related to a database of reassigned phone numbers.

“Available data indicate that robocall volume remains high and may be increasing,” the FCC notes. Not sure we needed a report to tell us that.

The FCC looks at complaints it and the Federal Trade Commission have received related to robocalls, but admits, “the number of complaints received does not equal the number of illegal robocalls placed. Many illegal robocalls likely go unreported, while consumers may report calls and file complaints about calls that are lawful, but are simply unwanted.”

In terms of stopping robocalls, the FCC laid out five initiatives — call blocking, caller ID authentication, enforcement actions it has taken against companies and individuals deemed to have been making illegal robocalls, its reassigned number database, and educational outreach.

The challenges of stopping robocalls include the fact that many scammers are operating in countries outside the United States, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act only has a one year statute of limitations, and the TCPA also requires a citation before forfeiture proceedings can begin, allowing scammers to reincorporate under a new name to evade detection.

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