Written by Ernesto Mendieta
Continuing with its efforts against illegal robocalling, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules to further encourage phone companies to block illegal and unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers.
On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted new rules implementing part of the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act), which directed the FCC to give voice service providers a safe harbor for the blocking of calls under certain circumstances.
The new rules offer companies two safe harbors from liability for the unintended or inadvertent blocking of wanted calls. The first safe harbor protects companies that use reasonable analytics, including caller ID authentication information, to identify and block illegal or unwanted calls from liability. The second safe harbor protects providers that block call traffic from “bad actor upstream voice service providers” that pass illegal or unwanted calls along to other providers, when those upstream providers have been notified but fail to take action to stop these calls. The Commission emphasized that emergency calls should never be blocked.
It remains to be seen what impact these new measures will have on legal calls placed by businesses trying to contact consumers that want to be reached, since carriers will now be able to rely on these safe harbors without fear of liability.
Additionally, through a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Commission is seeking comments regarding additional steps to protect consumers and better inform them about provider blocking efforts. The questions asked by the FCC include whether to obligate phone companies to better police their networks against illegal robocalls, whether to require them to provide information about blocked calls to consumers for free, whether any measures are necessary to address the mislabeling of calls and about redress mechanisms for callers when their calls are blocked.
The deadline for filing comments will be 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register, which has not occurred yet.