• January 12, 2024

FCC Closes the Lead Generator Loophole

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules to further protect consumers from scam communications by directly addressing some of the biggest vulnerabilities in America's robotext defenses and closing the lead generator robocall/robotexts loophole.

The new rules allow blocking of red-flagged robotexting numbers, codifies do-not-call rules for texting, and encourages an opt-in approach for delivering email-to-text messages.

The new rules allow the FCC to red-flag certain numbers, requiring mobile carriers to block texts from those numbers. The rules also codify that Do-Not-Call list protections apply to text messaging, making it illegal for marketing texts to be sent to numbers on the registry. And the order encourages providers to make email-to-text messages an opt-in service.

The new rules close a loophole through which unscrupulous robocallers and robotexters inundate consumers with unwanted and illegal robocalls and robotexts. They also make it clear that comparison shopping websites and lead generators must obtain consumer consent to receive robocalls and robotexts one seller at a time rather than have a single consent apply to multiple telemarketers at once.

In addition to these rules, the FCC is proposing additional steps it might take against robotexts, such as additional blocking requirements when the FCC notifies a provider of a likely scam text-generating number and text message authentication modeled on the STIR/SHAKEN protocols for phone calls.

The new rules will have an unprecedented impact on marketers across the industry, according to Michelle Tilton, vice president of markleting at Gryphon.ai. She maintains that they will require marketers to become more intentional, needing to provide real value rather than perceived value to customers in exchange for their information.

Marketers, she adds, will also need to adopt new kinds of technologies and solutions, like conversation intelligence, to remain compliant and profitable. At the same time, she expects marketers to pull leads within their own direct-to-consumer channels and rely less on third-party generation partners.

News of the FCC's rules changes comes as U.S. consumers received just slightly less than 3.8 billion robocalls in December alone, according to YouMail's latest Robocall Index. That amounts to 121.6 million robocalls per day and 1,407 robocalls per second.

And while December's numbers are 19 percent lower than November's average of 150.2 million robocalls per day and 1,738 robocalls per second, the average monthly volume remained high at roughly 4.6 billion robocalls.

Overall, in 2023, the robocall volume grew 9 percent over 2022, with 55 billion robocalls vs. 50.3 billion in 2022.

At the same time, the number of robotexts totalled 19 billion for 2023, representing a 37 percent increase, according to data from Robokiller.

However, these overall increases hide some positive trends. First, there was a 38 percent reduction in scam calls, down to just a little more than 8.1 billion scam calls for the year. This stems from a combination of much less call spoofing due to STIR/SHAKEN being rolled out almost universally, as well as scammers getting much more targeted in their calling campaigns. Secondly, this reduction in scam calls led to likely unwanted calls declining from 49 percent of all calls to 43 percent, with 1.3 billion fewer likely unwanted calls for the year.

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