In a comment submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, the directors of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Economics, and Office of Policy Planning write that, in their view, no legal barriers or policy considerations prevent common carriers from offering consumers technology that allows them to block unwanted calls.
The comment, which was filed in response to a FCC public notice seeking input on call-blocking, states that “consumers continue to be plagued with unwanted telemarketing calls, which in many cases violate the law.” The comment describes the FTC’s extensive law enforcement efforts to protect consumers from illegal telemarketing calls, but notes that vigorous law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem.
Law violators are now using the Internet to place large numbers of illegal telemarketing calls, inexpensively, often from overseas, and in a manner that allows them to hide from law enforcement. To combat this problem, a technological solution is needed, and “call-blocking technology – i.e., a ‘spam filter’ for the phone – is an integral part of that technological solution.”
“The widespread availability of call-blocking technology to consumers will make a significant dent in the problem of unwanted telephone calls,” the comment states, but despite the strong consumer interest in such technology, “to date [common] carriers have resisted offering call-blocking services to their large customer bases.”
The carriers claim that the FCC legal framework does not allow phone companies to block calls, even if their customer requests call-blocking. According to the FTC’s comment, however, numerous authorities recognize a carrier’s ability to block telephone calls at a consumers’ request.
Concluding the comment, the FTC writes that, “An affirmative statement from the FCC that common carriers can offer call-blocking services to their consumers without violating their common carriage obligations would be in the best interest of American consumers.
The Commission vote approving the comment was 5-0. (The staff contact is Bikram Bandy, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2978)
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Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs