• July 25, 2016

FCC Chair Calls for Free Robocall Blocking Tools

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler urged the nation's top phone companies to provide their customers with free tools to block unwanted robocalls and has given them 30 days to respond with a plan for doing so. Robocalls are the top consumer complaint reported to the FCC.

Wheeler's action was applauded by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, which launched its End Robocalls campaign last year. More than 600,000 people have signed Consumers Union's petition urging AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon to offer their customers free robocall-blocking tools.

"Consumers are tired of being hounded by robocalls that interrupt their privacy and are often used by crooks to commit fraud," said Tim Marvin, who heads up Consumers Union's End Robocalls campaign. "The phone companies need to start listening to their customers, who are desperate for relief. The time for action is long overdue."

Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth.com, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications, Level 3 Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon. In those letters, Wheeler noted that "Nothing in the commission's rules and orders prevents [phone companies] from offering customers robocall blocking technology. I strongly urge you to offer your customers robust call blocking at no cost."

Robocalls reportedly result in an estimated $350 million in financial losses every year.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 3.5 million complaints from consumers fed up with unwanted calls. Almost half of these calls occurred after consumers requested that the caller stop contacting them. Robocalls have become so rampant that complaints about violations of the Do Not Call registry doubled between 2010 and 2015.

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