The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Consumer Advisory Committee met yesterday with an agenda that included “Consideration of Robocall Blocking Recommendation.” Brian Young of the National Consumers League, a co-chair of the Robocall Blocking Working Group, made the presentation.
The Committee’s unanimous recommendations called on the Commission to ensure that consumers are clearly informed of what types of calls will be blocked and will be able to easily identify erroneously blocked calls.
As for the Critical Calls List – the list of calls that consumers might want to ensure are not blocked so long as authenticated – the Committee adopted a narrow recommendation, focused on emergency and government-related communications – which was the FCC’s “starting point” in its ongoing Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in CG Docket No. 17-59. The FCC had also asked for comment on whether other types of calls, such as calls from schools, doctors, alarm companies, flight alerts, recall centers, and fraud and weather alerts should be included. Some of these options had been supported by those who had commented in the rulemaking proceeding. No such support by the Committee.
Although the schedule had allocated a half hour for the presentation and discussion, the Committee unanimously adopted the following recommendations without question or discussion:
- Telecommunications providers should clearly disclose to consumers what types of calls will be blocked and that there is a risk that legitimate calls will be blocked.
- Any blocking program should have clear opt out instructions and consumers should be able to manage their blocking preferences through an easy to use online portal, through customer service representatives on the phone and in-person at retail stores.
- Consumers should be notified when a call is blocked and have access to a log of all blocked calls.
- Consumers should be able to easily identify erroneously blocked calls.
- The FCC should work with the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and consumer groups to educate the public about the opt-out program.
- The Critical Calls list (calls that will not be blocked) should remain narrow and only involve government numbers and focus on emergency communications, government benefits, and government services. The FCC should review the list periodically and keep in mind that the larger the list becomes, the higher the likelihood of erroneous blocking or fraud.
These recommendations will go to the Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and Commission itself, which are considering, among other things, the Critical Calls List issue, in the ongoing rulemaking.
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