Proposed FCC Rule Would Give Consumers Power to Block All Calls If Caller Is Not In Their Contact list

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, yesterday proposed what he described as a “bold action” that would give phone companies the block “unwanted” calls from being connected to consumers and allow consumers to block calls from individuals who are not on their contact list.

The proposed Declaratory Ruling will be considered at the FCC’s next meeting, on June 6. It would be the first action taken by the FCC to combat illegal robocalls, and follows the adoption of new rules in 2017 that allowed phone carriers to block calls that come from phone numbers that can not or do not make outgoing calls, among other types of calls that will now be blocked.

“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Pai, in a statement. “And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”

For the credit and collection industry, this is good and potentially bad news. The good news is that, as consumers, you might receive fewer robocalls. The potentially bad news, and the drum that the industry has been beating for as long as the FCC has been working on ways to fight the proliferation of robocalls, is how to make sure legitimate calls, such as those made by a debt collector, are not blocked, either accidentally by the carrier or purposely by an individual who does not want to be contacted.

“We strongly support tailored efforts to combat illegal and fraudulent robocalls which are a huge problem for all of us who are consumers,” said Leah Dempsey, ACA International senior counsel and vice president of federal advocacy, in a statement. “However, consumer harm results when legitimate business calls are blocked or mislabeled and people do not receive critical, sometimes exigent information they need. We have urged the FCC to provide guidance on how to immediately correct any faulty blocking or mislabeling of calls.”

If approved by the FCC, the Declaratory Ruling would remove the opt-in provision that many carriers have for their customers to receive call-blocking services and allow the carriers to offer the services by default. Consumers would have the chance to opt out of receiving the services, if they so choose. Consumers would also be able to further restrict calls they receive by creating a “white list” and block calls from any number not on the list.

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