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Robocall-Blocking Technology Exists But Few Carriers Have Implemented; Robocalls Are Technology Of Choice When It Comes To Telemarketers, Scams & More

Block Technology Sends Annoying Robocall To A Spam Box, Much Like How Email Works; Schumer Says Now Is The Time For Carriers To Answer The Call & Free Consumers Of Dreaded Robos 

Schumer: Game Of Phones With Robocalls Has Gone On Far Too Long

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged major landline and mobile carriers to 1) Make robocall-blocking technology available to all consumers and 2) Make consumers aware of this service. The Senator also wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to put pressure on carriers to implement robocall-blocking technology and said today that if they don’t he would consider legislation.

Despite federal ‘Do Not Call’ rules, hundreds of thousands of individuals continue to receive unwanted telemarketing calls. According to the FTC, there were 3.57 million complaints about Do Not Call violations in FY 2015, up from 3.2 million in FY 2014. In addition to being an annoyance, Schumer explained that robocalls can also hurt consumers financially when they involve scammers.

"The 'Game of Phones' with robocalls has gone on far too long,” said U.S Senator Charles Schumer. “Whether its mortgage companies, credit card firms or, even worse, scammers, telephone companies should provide their customers with access to robocall-blocking technology that will eliminate future nuisance. We have the technology to block these robocalls and it's time for telephone and mobile phone to companies make it available to all consumers.”‎

For instance, according to the Consumers Union, robocall scammers cost consumers $350 million a year. Schumer pointed to the recent robocall tax scam that has threatened individuals, some in New York, by telling victims that they owe money to the IRS.  Schumer noted that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has led several efforts to identify and develop robocall-blocking technology and, as a result, Time Warner Cable Inc. announced that it would provide its customers with access to Nomorobo, a third-party robocall- blocking service for those with Internet-based service or Voice over Internet Protocol. Schumer said that because such technology, like Nomorobo, already exists, other landline and mobile carriers should similarly offer robocall-blocking services to consumers in order to eliminate future nuisances and even scams. Schumer explained that such technology works much like an e-mail spam box because it filters robocalls and other unwanted phone calls.

Schumer was joined by Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

"Nothing drives phone customers more crazy than robocalls that ring day and night," said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.  "Over half a million Americans have joined Consumers Union's End Robocalls campaign calling on AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to offer free call-blocking tools to stop unwanted calls.  It's time for the phone companies to take action and provide their customers with the relief they want and deserve." 

Robocalls are phone calls that use automated dialing machines to either play a pre-recorded message or connect to a live person. In many cases, these types of calls are made by fraudulent companies trying to steal money from the person on the other end of the phone. Many times, these calls are placed using “caller id spoofing.” Companies that resort to “caller id spoofing” can make the caller id display the phone number of a government agency, credit card company or bank. Under the “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009,” this practice is illegal if used for the purpose of defrauding or otherwise causing harm.

The National “Do-Not-Call” Registry, managed by the FTC, was implemented in 2003 after the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003. The registry is designed to give people a choice about whether they would like to receive telemarketing calls at home. It was created to limit the number of telemarketing calls and robocalls made to U.S. households. In order to register, one may log onto the “Do-Not-Call” website and their phone number will be permanently placed in the registry. 

There are currently over 222.8 million phone numbers in the registry. If a person who is listed on the registry receives a telemarketing call, he or she can file a complaint on the “Do-Not-Call” website. Published reports suggest that the number of robocall complaints by U.S. consumers has skyrocketed. There were 65,000 in October 2010; 212,000 in April 2012; and 305,000 in September 2014

In 2013, Nomorobo was one of two winners in the FTC's first Robocall challenge for the best overall solution to block illegal robocalls. According to the FTC, Nomorobo is a cloud-based solution that uses “simultaneous ringing,” which allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line. The second line can identify and hang up on illegal robocalls before they ring through to the user. In addition to Nomorobo, there are several types of similar technology on the market, including both apps and devices. Some technology offers a 'blacklist' that blocks specific spam numbers from coming through. Some technology offers a 'whitelist' that allows consumers to enter certain phone numbers that may be accepted through the phone.

Since 2013, the FTC has put forth another robocall blocking technology contest that would include both landline and mobile phones. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that phone companies are legally allowed to provide robocall blocking technology to customers who request it. Earlier this year, Time Warner announced it would offer Nomorobo for free to customers.

Schumer is urging major landline and wireless phone companies to offer robocall blocking technology, like Nomorobo, or something similar to customers. Schumer has long supported efforts to crackdown on robocalls. For instance, Schumer has supported federal legislation that would drastically increase punishments for telemarketing companies that continue to make robocalls. The bill would punish telemarketing companies that continue to willfully employ robocalls to dial cell phones or residential home phones at $20,000 per violation with up to ten years in prison.