The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted yesterday to allow telecom carriers to “block by default” illegal or unwanted calls to their subscribers. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released the proposed Declaratory Ruling in May. Carriers already block calls to subscribers that opt-in to a blocking service. This Ruling will now allow carriers to block by default, regardless of whether a consumer has opted in to the service. Blocking must be based on “reasonable call analytics.” The term reasonable was not defined.
Industry and consumers alike agree that the illegal robocall epidemic must be stopped; however, the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (“PACE”), along with many industry associations and U.S. companies, urged the FCC to allow industry to comment on the proposed Ruling prior to approval. Issues that remain unresolved include: what constitutes an “unwanted call,” whether carriers can charge consumers for the service, and what type of notification, if any, must be provided to the consumer and the calling party. Importantly, the Ruling does not require the carriers to implement blocking by default, but rather states that it is not statutorily prohibited.
Following yesterday’s vote, Chairman Pai stated, “Some who make legitimate calls have expressed concern about our decision today. But I believe that we have appropriately addressed their concerns by making clear that any reasonable call-blocking program offered by default must include a mechanism for allowing legitimate callers to register a complaint and for having that complaint resolved.”
M&S Partners Michele Shuster and Nick Whisler serve as, respectively, General Counsel and Associate General Counsel to PACE. We will continue to monitor this Ruling closely and keep you updated on relevant developments.
Michele is the Managing Partner at M&S and former Chief of the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. Bringing more than two decades of experience in the consumer protection arena, she advises highly regulated businesses on a wide range of telemarketing, privacy, and other consumer protection matters.