FCC Gives Voice Service Providers Safe Harbor From Inadvertently Blocking Legitimate Calls

The Federal Communications Commission has issued a Report and Order that gives voice service providers more power to block calls they deem likely to be a specific type of scam call while also announcing it is expanding its work with law enforcement agencies across the globe.

The orders are in conjunction with the FCC’s efforts to comply with the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

The type of scam call covered in the order are what is known as one-ring calls, where the perpetrator places a call to an individual, whose phone rings once. The individual, unsure of who called, then calls that number back, not knowing that the call is a toll call, the proceeds of which are shared by the scammer and the other perpetrators. In some variations of the scam, the scammer leaves a voicemail message attempting to induce a call back from the recipient.

In issuing the order, the FCC is allowing voice service providers to automatically block calls “that are highly likely to be associated” with one-ring scams. As well, the FCC extended a safe harbor to voice service providers who inadvertently block legitimate calls “using reasonable analytics.”

The safe harbor, the FCC hopes, will allow voice service providers to more aggressively block calls thought to be one-ring scam calls. “… the rule
we adopt today will remove any doubt that voice service providers may lawfully use reasonable analytics to identify and block calls that appear to be one-ring scam calls, even if such identification proves to be erroneous in any particular instance; that they may do so without fear of liability for inadvertently blocking wanted calls; and that they may do so on a network-wide basis,” the FCC said in its order.

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