Tue, 01/30/2018 - 05:35
The deadline was January 23 for industry groups to submit comments in response to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing the robocall blocking rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Nov. 17, 2017. As you recall, the rules provided FCC approval for phone companies to block calls that appeared to originate from invalid, unallocated or unassigned numbers. The FCC, in recognition of potential pitfalls, sought comments on the call blocking mitigation options, including the need for a challenge mechanism for erroneously blocked calls.
The new rules adopted by the FCC authorize phone companies to block robocalls from telephone numbers that:
- Do not or cannot make outgoing calls such as government numbers that are known to not make any outbound calls
- Reside on a "do not originate" list by the number's subscriber
- Purport to be from invalid numbers, like those with area codes that don't exist, from numbers that have not been assigned to a provider, and from numbers allocated to a provider but not currently in use
Two industry organizations, the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) and ACA International, submitted detailed suggestions for handling instances of erroneous call blocking, and how callers may address those concerns.
- Require carriers to offer a call blocking mitigation service for callers and called parties
- Provide a speedy commission complaint procedure for callers whose requests to have their calls unblocked are ignored or denied
- Implement effective and appropriate reporting requirements to gather and make publicly-available data related to call blocking and blocking mitigation
PACE suggested that the inquiry mechanism for erroneous calls blocking have scalability. Callers should have the ability to make inquires and modifications to single numbers as well as hundreds of numbers at a time to correct errors in a recipient’s blocking status. They also suggest that call recipient have a web-based portal that allows them to manually verify their status.
As a check on the process, they recommend reporting requirements that target call blocking outliers and trends in call blocking that may speak to whether blocking services continue to effectively target illegal calls.
ACA advocates that the FCC should require providers who offer call blocking services to:
- Indicate a call has been blocked on a per-call basis using a defined, unique signaling code
- Make available a defined, easy to use mechanism for callers to inquire about the blocking status of a number or set of numbers
- Make available a defined, easy to use mechanism for callers to challenge the status of a blocked number or set of numbers.
ACA is primarily concerned that legitimate business calls are being blocked and mislabeled by call processing tools already used in the marketplace. They would like for the call originators to know if a call has been blocked and have a process in place to quickly rectify any errors.
They believe that through reasonable mitigation measures, the FCC can balance protecting consumers from unlawful robocalls and not inadvertently block consumer access to important communications with legitimate businesses.
Insight From Industry Insiders About the FCC's Recent Call Blocking Actions
Statement from Stuart Discount, CEO of PACE:
“PACE is encouraged that the FTC commissioners as part of their comments, has encouraged call-blocking companies to take into consideration the blocking of legal communications by adopting practices such as notifying consumers on types of calls that are being blocked, way to communicate errors and a standard for labels attached to calls.
“The FTC and FCC attended a meeting of the PACE Communication Protection Coalition on January 25, 2018 where these topics were discussed with stakeholders including trade associations, carriers and analytic companies.
“There is some disappointment that the FTC has not encouraged the use of some sort of call notification to call originators that their calls are blocked. PACE believes that notification is an important part of any solution to mitigate blocking errors.”
Statement from Michele Shuster, General Counsel for PACE and speaker at the upcoming March 13th, TCPA Compliance Summit:
“Call blocking and labeling services can benefit consumers by reducing the number of illegal calls received by consumers, but they can also erroneously prevent legal and wanted communications. I welcome the FTC’s recognition of this risk and its encouragement of practices to reduce and remediate errors; however, I would go one step farther and require that providers of blocking and labeling services implement remediation systems that meet best practices.
"Industry led groups like the Communication Protection Coalition led by the Professional Association for Customer Engagement, are working to develop these best practices. I hope that both the FTC and FCC will continue engaging with interested parties to avoid unintended consequences that will harm both businesses and consumers.”
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