Regulators crack down on robocalls, spam texts

Regulators crack down on robocalls, spam texts

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday voted to crack down on robocalls and spam text messages.

The commission approved new rules that include asking phone companies to provide call-blocking services to customers, with the two Republican members dissenting. Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel also dissented in part from the order.

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The proposal also stops companies from making multiple robocalls to numbers that have been reassigned.

Some companies will be exempt from the rules in certain cases, like having a pharmacy notify a customer that they need to refill their medication.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the order allowed for the commission to keep “the enforcement of the law up to date with technology such as text messages, such as automated equipment.”

“Stop it, and stop it today,” Wheeler said of unwanted robocalls, the largest source of complaints the commission receives from the public.

But opponents of the plan, including the agency’s two Republican commissioners, say that the new rules are too broad.

“Rather than focus on the illegal telemarketing calls that consumers hate, the order twists the law’s words even further to target useful communications between legitimate businesses and their customers,” said Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai.

And they questioned whether it was fair to penalize businesses so quickly for auto-dialing numbers that had been reassigned.

Though the commission’s consideration of an expansion of the Lifeline program earlier in the day was considered more controversial, the discord on the commission over robocalls was clear.

Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly blasted what he said was the partisanship of the debate of the order, saying he would not so quickly trust FCC leaders in coming discussions.