On June 6th, members of the FCC will vote on a regulatory proposal to allow phone companies to automatically block robocalls (consumers would have the option to continue receiving automated calls).
Verizon and AT&T immediately expressed support for the proposal.
A “robocall” is an automated phone call that delivers a pre-recorded message. Technological advancements have allowed companies to target thousands of phones every hour with minimal effort. In 2018, Americans received an estimated 26 billion robocalls (up from 18 billion in 2017).
While robocalls are often associated with political campaigns and scams, they are also used to notify consumers about upcoming appointments, medical and utility bills, school closures, and public safety issues.
According to the FCC’s website, unwanted calls are the agency’s top consumer complaint.
“The American people are sick and tired of receiving a flood of unwanted robocalls, and allowing carriers to use call-blocking services by default will help provide consumers with much-needed relief,” said the agency.
Critics of the proposal insist automated calls are crucial to business even though some people find them annoying. Last week, representatives from banks, schools, collections agencies, and healthcare providers met with the FCC to persuade the agency to delay the vote and accept public comment on the proposal.
“It’s important that the commission take a hard look at some of the proposals to make sure that they are appropriately targeted to address the problem: illegal automated calls,” says Mark Brennen, a healthcare industry consultant who attended the meeting.
In a separate effort to reduce unwanted calls, the Senate voted 97-1 in support of a bill that requires phone companies to implement more stringent call verification standards and increases penalties for scammers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering new restrictions on calls from collections agencies and House lawmakers are reviewing plans to cut down on “spoofing” (when scam callers use your area code).