The Federal Communications Commission voted 6-6-19 to allow phone carriers to start to take more aggressive steps to block suspected spam and scam calls and to make enrollment in their robocall-blocking services automatic, not something you have to opt in to.
Notably, the new FCC rule does not require the carriers to automatically enroll customers in robocall blocking—it merely allows them to do so, something they couldn’t before for legal liability reasons. A second part of the rule proposes protections from lawsuits for phone companies that mistakenly block a call that should have been allowed to go through.
Nor does the new rule specifically say that the services should be offered for free, although the FCC says it expects they will be.
In fact, robocalls are the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, one of the agencies that along with the FCC is in charge of regulating the telecom industry. In May there were 4.7 billion robocalls made—43 percent of them scam calls, according to YouMail, a robocall-blocking and tracking technology firm.
More Changes Ahead
The FCC rule also makes other consumer protections available and clarifies expectations regarding even tougher robocall-blocking technology.
For example, consumers will now be able to tell their carrier to block any calls that aren’t contained in their phone’s contact list. Known as whitelisting, this is considered a kind of nuclear option because it could result in missing important calls, not just spam or scam ones.