This week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a notice soliciting input for an upcoming staff report on robocalling. The report was requested by the FCC in November 2018, specifying that it should cover progress made by industry, government and consumers in combatting illegal robocalls, as well as the remaining challenges to continuing the efforts. The Commission requested quantitative data including calling trends and consumer complaints, as well as other relevant information.

These are some of the questions asked by the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (Bureau), which has been directed to prepare the report:

  • How have providers responded to the new permissive rules from the November 2017 Call Blocking Order?
  • What kinds of blocking are providers doing as a result of this and other actions?
  • How is the effort progressing to implement SHAKEN/STIR (the standardized system for caller ID authentication), and when will it result in customer benefits?
  • How is the consumer complaint data released by the FCC and FTC being used, and what are the benefits of its release?
  • What criteria do opt-in filtering tools use in selecting calls for consumers to block or label as illegal or unwanted? Also, how effective and popular are they, and what are service providers doing to let consumers know about them?
  • How effective has call traceback been for identifying and enforcing against makers of illegal robocalls, and how might the tactic be improved?

The Bureau is also seeking trend data – using January 2018 as a baseline - that will assist in identifying which voice service providers, which types of calls, which types of scams, etc. are more/less effective. The Notice does suggest it is possible to seek confidential treatment for all or part of a submission, should it include “competitively sensitive information, or information likely to allow unlawful callers to circumvent filtering mechanisms.”

Comments are due July 20, 2018; Replies to the comments are due August 20, 2018. Electronic filers can submit comments here. Other instructions are here on the full notice.

insideARM Perspective

There has certainly been progress on the software solution side of this issue, with more than 500 apps now available, either through mobile phone carriers or app stores. Verizon recently announced screening assist for landlines. Many stakeholders are actively involved in the development of tools, rules and guidelines to stop illegal and unwanted robocalls.

As it relates to debt collection, we are still educating most of these stakeholders about the unique regulatory challenges and unintended consequences of the initiative. In fact – we are now seeing the convergence (or conflict) of FCC direction with the FDCPA rules of third party disclosure. Honestly, I think it’s leaving most people stumped. They mostly get it, but they don’t know what to do about it.

A few weeks ago I posted this 3 minute video on Linkedin describing the challenge. Here’s the gist: The FCC is responding to consumer demand to know who is calling, and why. The FDCPA says that debt collectors can’t reveal who is calling (if their name reveals that they are a collector) and why, until they have verified that they are speaking with the “right” person. So. Yeah.

The Consumer Relations Consortium has organized a roundtable of regulators, advocates, carriers, app developers, and industry to take place in early August that will address this issue specifically in the context of debt collection.

Those interested in more of the history on this can see all of our robocall topic coverage here on insideARM. Here is where it all officially started, in November 2017, with the FCC’s Commission Meeting where the Report and Order referred to above was adopted.

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