FCC takes aim at annoying telemarketing calls

Published:

 

WASHINGTON — Those automated phone calls during the dinner hour, late at night or to your wireless phone can be so frustrating — and the government is taking note.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission circulated a new proposal Wednesday designed to close loopholes, strengthen current rules, and encourage wireless and wireline carriers to do more to fight against unwanted telemarketing calls and spam text messages to consumers.

A key part of the plan: clearing up any confusion over whether the phone carriers can offer blocking services — so-called robo-blocking technology that could help people stop the unwanted calls.

“We are giving the green light for robocall-blocking technology,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog-post on the commission website.

Phone companies have said that they worry that automatic call-blocking might run afoul of laws requiring them to connect phone calls. Dozens of state attorneys general had asked the FCC to weigh in on whether blocking robocalls might violate any telecommunications statutes. Phone companies had asked for clarity on the issue, too.

In his blog post, Wheeler made clear that that the technology can be offered without violating the rules. “The FCC wants to make it clear: telephone companies can — and in fact should — offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” he said.

Wheeler’s proposal also aims to make it easier for consumers to say “no” to robocalls and texts. People wouldn’t have to fill out a form or jump through lots of hoops to get the calls and texts to stop. “Any reasonable way of saying “no” is allowed,” said Wheeler.

Last year, the FCC received more than 215,000 complaints related to unwanted and intrusive calls and texts. According to Wheeler, one person complained about receiving 4,700 unwanted texts over a six-month period.

The proposal will be voted on June 18 at a commission meeting.