FCC Proposes Rule to Block Robotexts

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a rule that would explore ways to require wireless carriers to block illegal text messages, similar to what the agency has done to combat illegal robocalls.

Robotexts have become more prevalent, especially as regulators and technology providers have taken steps to keep robocalls from being connected to consumers’ phones. The number of complaints received by the FCC last year that were filed by consumers who received unwanted text messages was more than double the number of complaints that were made in 2019, according to the agency. And the number of complaints that have been filed thus far in 2021 — 9,800 — are on pace with the number that were received last year — 14,000.

“In a world where so many of us rely heavily on texting to stay connected with our friends and family, ensuring the integrity of this communication is vitally important,” said Acting FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel, in a statement. “We’ve seen a rise in scammers trying to take advantage of our trust of text messages by sending bogus robotexts that try to trick consumers to share sensitive information or click on malicious links. It’s time we take steps to confront this latest wave of fraud and identify how mobile carriers can block these automated messages before they have the opportunity to cause any harm.”

The five FCC commissioners must vote on the proposed rule, which “would explore steps to protect consumers from illegal robotexts, including network level blocking and applying caller authentication standards to text messaging.”

The proposal comes at a time when the accounts receivable management industry is getting the green light from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to engage with consumers via text messages, albeit under certain circumstances and with specific controls in place. Measures that were taken to block robocalls from being connected to consumers’ phones impacted communication efforts by legitimate debt collectors, who had their calls blocked by carriers without explanation. Time will tell if the same could happen to their text messages, too.

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