Phone Companies Make Pact with State Attorneys General to Combat Robocalls

This Aug. 1, 2017, file photo, shows a call log displayed via an AT&T app on a cellphone in Orlando, Fla. New tools are coming to help fight robocall scams, but don’t expect unwanted calls to disappear.

This Aug. 1, 2017, file photo, shows a call log displayed via an AT&T app on a cellphone in Orlando, Fla. New tools are coming to help fight robocall scams, but don’t expect unwanted calls to disappear. AP Photo/John Raoux

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

As part of the agreement, 12 phone carriers pledged to implement call-blocking technology and to monitor their networks for illegal robocalls.

Major phone companies across the United States pledged Thursday to help state attorneys general crack down on robocalls by implementing new technology and taking additional steps to block unwanted calls.

Twelve telecom companies and attorneys general from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. have agreed to the voluntary pact, which establishes eight steps the companies will take to prevent robocalls and aid enforcement efforts.

Americans receive more than 5 billion robocalls each month and the calls aren’t just an annoying nuisance, as some are vehicles for nefarious actors seeking access to customers’ personal data.

“By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in a statement announcing the agreement. “They’ve also agreed to do more to help other state attorneys general and me track down the scammers and fraudsters responsible so that we can keep them from preying on people.”

The 12 carriers are AT&T, Verizon Communications, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, Century Link, Bandwidth, Charter Communications, Frontier Communications, U.S. Cellular, Windstream Services, Comcast, and Consolidated Communications.

The companies will implement free call-blocking technology, monitor their networks for robocall traffic, and implement the SHAKEN/STIR caller ID authentication framework that can differentiate between real and spoofed calls.

Attorneys general have previously called on Congress to crack down on robocalls and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took action earlier this year to allow carriers to automatically enroll consumers in call-blocking programs that weed out suspected spam calls.  

While state attorneys general receive a lot of complaints about robocalls, many officials have emphasized that the federal government needs to be involved in cracking down on offenders because states often have limited ability to respond to scammers located outside the country.

As part of the pact, the phone companies also agreed to aid state law enforcement efforts by investigating suspicious callers, working with law enforcement to trace the origins of illegal robocalls, taking steps to better identify bad actors, and requiring any contractors to also aid in tracing caller information.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the new bipartisan agreement, saying it will “encourage best practices for combating robocalls.”

“Few things can bring together policy leaders across the political spectrum like the fight against unwanted robocalls,” Pai said.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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