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Groups Express Concerns About FCC Robocall Proposal As Agency Preps Vote on Declaratory Ruling

As the Federal Communications Commission is poised to vote on a Declaratory Ruling this Thursday 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, a number of trade groups, including ACA International, have submitted a letter expressing how “deeply” they are concerned about the unintended consequences of the proposal.

The letter, sent to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week, was by 10 different banking and healthcare trade groups and invites the FCC to solicit comments on the proposal before making any final decisions. The groups are worried about legitimate calls that could be caught up and mis-identified as robocalls and blocked from ever being placed to consumers.

“The blocking of such beneficial calls would harm consumers and be contrary to the public interest,” the groups wrote. “It also would frustrate the purpose of requirements from other federal agencies and would be inconsistent with Congress’ longstanding intent that the Commission facilitate efforts to block only illegal calls and not lawful calls from legitimate business.”

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.

In a separate document sent to the FCC last week, ACA International went as far as to raise concerns that the agency might be overstepping its bounds — a situation that the trade group has successfully argued in the past against the FCC.

“The Commission cites no statutory authority allowing voice service providers to intercept and terminate such calls, and none exists,” the letter says. “Indeed, it is well settled that the absence of a prohibition in a statute does not equal a grant of authority to regulate.”

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