Sept. 10, 2014. Technology is available to help block annoying robocalls and telephone companies should be using it, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday.
Cooper today joined 38 other state attorneys general to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow phone companies to use call-blocking technologies that would better protect consumers from unwanted calls and scams.
“Each year, thousands of consumers complain to my office about annoying robocalls that hold their phone lines hostage,” said Cooper. “Fraudulent telemarketers are using technology to scam consumers and evade law enforcement, and it’s time to even the playing field and use technology to give consumers some relief.”
Call-blocking technologies, such as NoMoRobo, Call Control, and Telemarketing Guard, have been developed to enable phone carriers to identify and block pre-recorded, automated sales calls at their customers’ request. However, some phone carriers have not implemented this technology, claiming in part that federal law prevents them from blocking calls on their consumers’ behalf.
Cooper and the other state attorneys general are asking the FCC to recognize call-blocking filters as legally appropriate, if requested by customers.
“State law enforcement officials are doing everything possible to track down and prosecute those that engage in illegal telemarketing. However, law enforcement cannot fight this battle alone,” the attorneys general wrote the FCC. “Call-blocking technology […] appears to be the first major advancement towards a solution.”
Last year, unwanted telemarketing calls topped the list of consumer complaints to Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division with 5,076 complaints. Most of these are illegal robocalls pitching lower credit card interest rates, computer repairs, burglar alarms, and medical alert systems. Robocalls are frequently used to try to steal money or personal information.
Many consumers who get these calls have already signed up for Do Not Call Registry, indicating that they don’t want to get telemarketing sales calls. While most legitimate companies respect consumers’ wishes and abide by the Registry, those out to commit fraud continue to make unwanted calls, often from overseas and via robocall.
Phone carriers have expressed concern that FCC rules may prohibit them from determining which calls should be allowed to go through to a customer and which should be blocked. Last year, US Telecom wrote to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance that “the FCC has concluded that call blocking is an unjust and unreasonable practice under section 201(b) of the Communications Act of 1934.”
The attorney generals are asking the FCC to resolve the confusion by issuing a formal opinion on whether companies can block illegal telemarketing calls at the request of a consumer.
“If a solution to the nation’s illegal telemarketing problem is possible, it will require the private sector—including telephone carriers—to get involved,” the attorneys general wrote the FCC.
Along with North Carolina, the following other states and territories signed the letter to the FCC : Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.