State Attorneys General and Telecom Companies Sign Anti-Robocall Agreement

Attorneys General from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have come together with twelve major telecommunications service providers including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint to form a partnership for reducing robocalls that inundate U.S. consumers. The alliance comes just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) voted to give phone companies the right to block unwanted calls without getting customers’ permission first. The result of this partnership is a document signed by all parties titled the “Anti-Robocall Principles.”

The Eight Principles

Most notably, the service providers agree that they will implement eight Anti-Robocall Principles into their business practices. These principles include the following:

Offer Free Call Blocking and Labeling: For mobile smartphones and VoIP residential customers, service providers must offer free, easy to use call blocking and labeling tools. These tools must be regularly and actively marketed to customers and safeguard customers’ personal and location information.

Implement STIR/SHAKEN: Service providers must implement STIR/SHAKEN call authentication protocols that validate whether a caller is known to have permission to use the caller ID displayed.

Analyze and Monitor Network Traffic: Service providers will analyze high volume voice network traffic to identify and monitor patterns consistent with robocalls.

Investigate Suspicious Calls and Calling Patterns: If a service provider detects a pattern consistent with illegal robocalls or has reason to suspect illegal robocalling is taking place over its network, it must identify the party that is using its network and take appropriate action. Such action may include initiating traceback activities, terminating the caller’s ability to originate or route calls on its network, and notifying law enforcement authorities.

Confirm the Identity of Commercial Customers: Service providers must confirm the identity of new commercial customers by collecting information such as physical business location, contact persons, state or country of incorporation, federal tax ID, and the nature of the customer’s business.

Traceback Cooperation in Contracts: For all new and renegotiated contracts governing the transport of voice calls, service providers must use their best efforts to require cooperation in traceback investigations by identifying the upstream provider from which the potentially illegal robocall entered its network or by identifying its own customers if the calls originated in its network.

Traceback Cooperation with Law Enforcement: To allow for timely and comprehensive law enforcement efforts against illegal robocalls, service providers must dedicate sufficient resources to provide prompt and complete responses to traceback requests from law enforcement and from the Industry Traceback Group overseen by USTelecom, a telephone service provider trade organization.

Communicate with State Attorneys General: Service providers must cooperate with state AGs about recognized scams and trends in illegal robocalling, as well as update state AGs about potential additional solutions for combating illegal robocalls.

Marketing and Advertising Companies Beware

Businesses that use phone calls to communicate with consumers should consider the potential impact of these efforts on their business models. Although targeted to rooting-out illegal robocalls, service providers may inadvertently capture high volume legal calls in their net. Businesses should vigilantly monitor their connect rates and identify for remediation carriers that are improperly blocking and inaccurately labeling their calls.

* Ali Najaf contributed to this post.