A majority of the nation’s state and territorial Attorneys General have collectively urged the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to revisit rules and policies in ways that would help law enforcement crack down on telemarketing practices. Recently, the FCC issued a public notice seeking comment on a request by the National Association of Attorneys General and 39 undersigned state law enforcement executives (referred to collectively here as “NAAG”). The petition seeks a formal FCC opinion on the legal ability of telephone providers to implement call-blocking technology to combat unwanted telemarketing. In their request, NAAG noted that while call-blocking technology such as “NoMoRobo,” “Call Control,” and “Telemarketing Guard” currently exist on the market, telecom companies are reluctant to employ such devices to stop unwanted telemarketing from reaching consumers due to perceived legal barriers. According to telecom industry representatives, “phone companies have a legal obligation to complete phone calls” and the current legal framework “does not allow [them] to decide for the consumer which calls should be allowed to go through and which should be blocked.” The FCC’s notice asks for public comment on three major issues raised by NAAG and the Attorneys General:
- The legal and/or regulatory prohibitions, if any, preventing carriers from implementing call-blocking, and whether the answer changes if the telecom’s customers affirmatively “opt into” call-blocking technology;
- The legality of carriers blocking harassing and annoying calls at the customer’s request based on “discrete sets of specific phone numbers,” and whether this could be leveraged into blocking calls if technology is able to identify them as originating or probably originating from telemarketers; and
- Whether it is accurate to say the FCC exercises “strict oversight in ensuring the unimpeded delivery of telecommunications traffic,” and, if so, on what basis the FCC holds carriers may not block, choke, reduce or restrict telecommunications traffic.