FCC To Vote on Call Blocking Safe Harbor

The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month on establishing a safe harbor that would protect phone carriers from being sued if they inadvertently block a legitimate call as a means of protecting consumers from receiving unwanted calls. But will the safe harbor induce carriers to be more aggressive in blocking calls, including those that may be coming from collectors?

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the FCC, announced the vote on the safe harbor in a blog post published yesterday.

The safe harbor would protect phone companies from liability over blocked calls “so long as such action is based upon reasonable analytics indicating that such calls were unwanted and therefore should be blocked,” Pai wrote.

Along with the call blocking safe harbor, Pai said the FCC will also consider formalizing “the blocking of bad actor telephone companies that act as a gateway for illegal and unwanted calls,” including requiring originating carriers to do a better job of policing their networks and terminating carriers to provide information about blocked calls to consumers at no charge.

Notifying consumers of calls that have been blocked was a request of a number of trade groups, including ACA International, when they met with the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau back in March.

Call blocking has been a hot-button issue in the credit and collection industry for the past couple of years, as carriers have rolled out solutions aimed at preventing fraudulent or spam calls from being connected to consumers. But legitimate calls, like those from collectors, have been blocked as well. In a 2018 survey, 78% of ACA International members reported having their calls blocked and 74% said they had their calls mislabeled as spam.

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