FCC Issues Orders Banning Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued orders on Wednesday, taking “additional steps to protect consumers from unwanted and illegal robocalls.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated that the actions “are like a one-two punch to ward (off)” “unwanted and illegal robocalls.”

The FCC’s first order limits the number of “non-telemarketing robocalls made to residential phones from non-commercial, commercial, and tax-exempt nonprofit organizations” “to three calls to any residential phone from any caller within any consecutive 30-day period.” 

The order states that it “make(s) no changes to the exemptions for (1) package delivery related calls to a wireless number; (2) financial institution calls to a wireless number; (3) healthcare related calls to a wireless number; and (4) inmate calling service calls to a wireless number.” The FCC found that the existing exemptions for these kinds of callers already “satisfie(d) the TRACED Act’s requiremen(t)” which requires that the FCC impose limits regarding the kind of caller who can be exempt, which “classes of parties” “may be called,” and the number of calls that may be made. The FCC also stated that the “record shows” the existing exemptions for these kinds of callers “continues to serve the public interest.”

The order specifies that “any caller that is not calling for a commercial purpose” may be exempt from the prohibition on “artificial or prerecorded voice messages to residential telephone lines.” The FCC indicated that this exemption includes “calls conducting research, market surveys, political polling, or similar noncommercial activities.”

The FCC’s second order “required terminating voice service providers to take new steps to ensure their networks are not used to transmit illegal robocalls.” Further, “voice service providers will” “be required to take affirmative steps to stop illegal calls when notified of those calls” by the FCC. The order requires voice service providers “to aid FCC and law enforcement efforts to identify providers that originate illegal calls.” 

The FCC is also expanding “safe harbors for providers to include network-based blocking of calls that are highly likely to be illegal and that have been identified using reasonable analytics, including caller ID authentication.” Consumers will not be required to opt-in to network-based blocking. The FCC stated that “blocking providers must target only calls highly likely to be illegal while providing sufficient human oversight and network monitoring to ensure that blocking is working as intended.” The FCC requires phone companies “to immediately notify callers when calls” are blocked, as well as “provide a list” of blocked calls “to subscribers on request.” 

The FCC’s rules require that in “every case where an artificial or prerecorded voice telephone message includes or introduces an advertisement or constitutes telemarketing and is delivered to a residential telephone line, the caller must provide an automated, interactive voice-and/or key press-activated opt-out mechanism for the called person to make a do-not-call request.”

The FCC established a “six-month period” for the “new requirements to take effect.” This buffer period was established to give callers time to “implement necessary changes in a cost-effective way that makes sense for their individual business models.”