FCC to consider rules blocking robocalls, telemarketers

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/30/15, 10:30 am

Unwanted calls may ring for the last time as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cracks down on the power of telemarketers and robocalls.

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, released a proposal on Wednesday to tackle the commission’s leading cause of consumer complaints. The commission will vote on the proposal June 18.

In his proposal, Wheeler addressed an inquiry from several telephone companies questioning whether it’s legal to block robocalls. 

“The FCC wants to make it clear: telephone companies can—and in fact should—offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” Wheeler said.

Last year, the FCC received more than 250,000 complaints about unwanted and intrusive calls and texts. If passed, the proposal will give consumers the right to simply say “no” to robocalls. This will be a change from the rigorous process currently in place. 

“People won’t have to fill out a form and mail it in to stop unwanted calls and texts,” Wheeler said. “Any reasonable way of saying ‘no’ is allowed.”

There are a few limited cases, such as calls about possible bank frauds or reminders to refill medications, where calls and texts are allowed. Some worry these exclusions are not specific enough. 

“Based on the document released, it’s a little ambiguous,” said Chris Haerich, vice president of the Professional Association for Consumer Engagement. “I hope we get some clarification on some of it, and I hope they take into consideration how it’s going to affect organizations that are doing this kind of work.”

But consumer groups responded positively to the FCC proposal. 

“This should clear the way for companies to offer the call-blocking tools that people want to stop robocalls from invading their homes morning, noon, and night,” said Delara Derakshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Millions of fed-up consumers could finally get some real relief.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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