FCC to release data on unwanted phone calls

Developers building tools to block robocalls now have a new source of data to draw on: the Federal Communications Commission.

The commission announced on Wednesday that it would release data on the source of automatic robocalls and telemarketing appeals that could be used by people building “do not disturb” technology for phones.

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“As we encourage providers to offer these services, and as the Commission recently made clear that there are no legal barriers to doing so, we continue to look for ways to help facilitate important consumer tools,” said Alison Kutler, chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

The data includes information about the call — like the date it was made and whether it was pre-recorded — as well as the caller-ID number associated with the call. The commission will release new data every week to reflect new consumer complaints.

The Federal Trade Commission also releases data on the numbers from which unwanted calls originate.

Complaints about unwanted calls are common at the FCC. Since late December of last year, the commission has received 139,535 complaints about robocalls and telemarketers.

Consumer concerns also led the commission to adopt new rules governing robocalls. Among them was language that clarified that companies could provide their customers with robocalling blocking technology.

The news rules also gave consumers more ways to opt out of telemarketing calls, reiterated that customers can get the same protection from text messages and expanded the types of dialing tools that are covered under the law.

For years, the government has maintained a registry of numbers of consumers who do not wish to receive calls from telemarketers. That “Do Not Call” registry, established in 2003, did not succeed in stem the flow of complaints about telemarketing practices; they continued to rise even after the list was established.