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What’s Being Done by Lawmakers to Block Robocallers?

Consumer rage about robocalls has reached a boiling point. The lightning rod topic has politicians scrambling, federal agencies brainstorming, and phone companies troubleshooting. All the while, users just want their phones to stop ringing with spam phone calls.

Notably, Ooma Premier phone service has been ahead of this issue for years. Even though Ooma is a low-cost alternative to traditional providers, it provides high-tech tools that can help you stay a step ahead of the scammers. Users can customize their settings to block known spammers, suspected spammers, anonymous callers with unknown phone numbers, and even custom lists such as if a political party’s name is included in the caller ID.

While Ooma Premier helps you automatically block unwanted calls before the phone even rings, not all phone services provide the same level of powerful telephone tools. What’s being done by lawmakers to protect American consumers from a seemingly unstoppable amount of phone scammers? Learn where the United States stands in the fight against robocalls.

 federal laws against robocallers

eurobanks – stock.adobe.com

Can the Feds Stop Robocalls?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the federal watchdog in charge of many types of communications legislation. The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has widely condemned robocalls and illegal phone spam. Yet, the agency’s response to the problem of spam calls has been to encourage phone companies to voluntarily implement robocall protection. Pai considers legislation on the issue to be “regulatory overreach.”

While the agency has warned of “regulatory intervention” if telecoms fail to provide robocall protection, it also has applauded the court’s rollback of anti-robocall legislation citing the debate about whether a smartphone could be considered an autodialer.

In another apparent contradiction, the FCC has highlighted how it’s cracking down on offenders, citing major phone spammers such as Philip Roesel who was fined $82 million. However, a report from the The Wall Street Journal says that of the $208.4 million in robocalling fines that have been issued since 2015, less than $7,000 has been collected. That’s 0.003 percent.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has some skin in the game and recently hosted a joint policy forum on the issue of robocalls with the FCC.

In its fight against the issue, the FTC has issued $1.5 billion in fines since 2004 for robocall civil penalties, Do Not Call Registry violations, and fraud-related cases. The WSJ reported that the total collected on this sum was $121 million, or about 8 percent.

The Senate is also weighing in on spam calls with the Commerce Committee unanimously advancing the TRACED Act, which stands for “Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence.” This bill includes the expansion of civil penalties up to $10,000 per call, requires that providers implement call authentication, and expands the statute of limitations from one year to three years.

While the issue is surely complicated, there has been a recent legislative win with the FCC unanimously adopting an amendment to the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, which expands enforcement capability against robocall scams to include caller ID spoofing that originated from other countries and is directed at U.S. recipients.

What’s Being Done at the State Level to Fight Robocalls?

As Pew Trust explains in a report about robocalls, “State attorneys general know what makes their constituents mad because they hear it.”

In October of 2018, attorneys general from 35 states signed a bipartisan statement to the FCC petitioning the agency to take bold steps against illegal robocalls. By December, the working group expanded to 40 state AGs against robocalls.

In March of 2019, attorneys general from 54 states and territories signed a letter in support of the TRACED Act.

state laws against robocallers

eurobanks – stock.adobe.com

Yet, many states aren’t content to wait for the legislation at the federal level. There have been laws proposed or passed in multiple states, including Massachusetts, Arkansas, New York, Connecticut, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, New Jersey, California, Montana, Nebraska, and more.

What Can You Do About Robocalls?

We’ve previously explained why the National Do Not Call Registry isn’t effective at stopping the current problem of spam robocallers and telemarketing calls.

According to Consumer Reports, 70 percent of people have stopped answering their phone if they don’t recognize the number or if the caller is anonymous. In fact, not answering is the #1 recommendation by experts; however, it doesn’t stop the phone from ringing due to unwanted calls.

While consumers have options to push on legislators including signing a petition or filing a complaint, nearly a quarter of consumers are using technology for robocall blocking. Some phone companies provide this as an add-on service, and third-party blocking apps are popular as well.

ooma premier includes robocall blocking

Ooma Premier’s advanced robocall blocking is included as a part of the phone service. Users can customize their block lists including the ability to determine what happens to these unwanted incoming callers. They can do go straight to voicemail, hear a prerecorded message that the line has been disconnected, hear a call blocked message, or hear a continuous ring.

Ooma’s call blocking is just one of the features that make Ooma home phone service a great choice for affordable phone calls. Learn about the other advantages including Alexa integration, advanced 911 tools, and crystal-clear call quality.

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Thad White

Thad is the Director of Product Management at Ooma, responsible for driving great user experiences across Ooma’s portfolio of hardware devices, mobile apps, and services. Thad has more than 20 years experience building and managing consumer tech products at leading tech companies including Yahoo!, BlackBerry, and 3jam (acquired by Skype). He has worked on messaging and communications products used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Thad holds a BA from Rice University in cognitive science and linguistics.

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