FTC Hopes New ‘Blacklist’ Will Push Robocalls Toward the Proverbial White Light

On August 1, the FTC issued a press release stating it would begin using consumer complaints to ramp-up its efforts in stamping out illegal robocalls. The FTC reports that unwanted and illegal robocalls are a persistent problem for consumers, providers, and the FTC, with over 1.9 million consumer complaints filed in the first five months of 2017 alone.

Under the new initiative, when consumers report a telephone number associated with alleged Do Not Call or robocall violations, the caller’s phone number will be released to telecommunications carriers and other industry affiliates. Complaint information will be released daily. While the FTC initiative is intended to aid in implementing call-blocking solutions, it is unclear if the FTC has implemented any processes or procedures to determine if the consumer complaints are valid before releasing phone numbers.

Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen stated that the new initiative was “the type of public-private partnership the FTC champions.” Ohlhausen and the FTC also plan to offer additional information to carriers as the program continues to roll-out, including the subject matter, date, and time of offending calls.

While the FTC’s concept is well-intentioned, some businesses and industry groups have expressed concern that the initiative will inadvertently block legitimate calls.  Industry leaders have noted, for example, that the definitions of “illegal robocalls” and “spoofing” lack clarity and need to focus more specifically on fraudulent and harmful conduct. As currently implemented, the program may encompass legitimate activities.

It is important that companies relying on phone calls to contact their customers and potential clients monitor their contact rates to determine if their calls are being blocked or labeled.

* Chad Blackham contributed to this post.