So it turns out that maybe AT&T isn’t rolling out free call-blocking after all.
According to a published report, the only way to get calls automatically blocked is for customers of AT&T to pay an additional $4 per month. In order to get calls blocked for free, customers will have to manually create their own lists of numbers from which the customers do not want to receive calls. For $4 per month, customers will be able to have calls deemed by AT&T to be robocalls to automatically be sent to voicemail.
AT&T had announced last week that it was expanding its Call Protect service to include automatic call blocking. Customers receive a text message when the service has been added to their line.
Call Protect has been available for three years, but customers had to previously opt into receiving the service. What AT&T announced last week is that customers will now automatically be enrolled in the Call Protect service, which is free. AT&T was careful in how it worded the announcement, according to the report:
Notice that the AT&T announcement promised “automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam-call alerts” but not automatic blocking of spam calls. Calls that AT&T categorizes as “fraud” won’t ring your phone, but calls categorized as “spam” will ring your phone despite coming with a warning.
Fraud calls, naturally, are those in which AT&T suspects the caller is trying to defraud the user. By contrast, “spam calls are calls that a customer may consider to be a nuisance, but that is subjective to each customer,” AT&T told us. AT&T’s Call Protect website says further that “Suspected spam may include service messages and/or other permitted calls.” AT&T says it identifies fraud and spam calls “through data analytics and network blocking, as well as reports from customers.”
Companies in the credit and collection space are very wary of automatic call blocking. They are worried that legitimate calls, such as those from debt collectors, will be blocked and that getting in touch with individuals will become even harder. The carriers have admitted they can not assess the content of a call — just the information about from where it is originating. So, a call reminding someone of an appointment and a call reminding someone about an unpaid debt that come from the same number may both be blocked.