FCC approves rules allowing phone companies to block robocalls

FCC approves rules allowing phone companies to block robocalls
© Camille Fine

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to let phone service providers proactively block robocalls from fraudulent numbers.

The proposal was approved unanimously, with commissioners of both parties hailing it as a necessary step to protect consumers.

"These calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent; there’s no legitimate reason for anyone to spoof caller ID to make it seem as if he or she is calling from an unassigned or invalid phone number," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

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"Make no mistake—this isn’t the end of our efforts," Pai added. "We’ll need to do more, and we will. But we’re building a strong foundation for fighting illegal robocalls, both by updating our rules and taking enforcement action."

Service providers will now be able to block calls from numbers with certain signs that indicate that they're fraudulent. For example, companies will be able to proactively block calls from numbers with area codes that don't exist or that can't make outgoing calls.

Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted to approve the proposal, but said it didn't go far enough.

“While the agency offers carriers the ability to limit calls from what are likely to be fraudulent actors, it fails to prevent them from charging consumers for this service," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "So this is the kicker: the FCC takes action to ostensibly reduce robocalls but then makes sure you can pay for the privilege. If you ask me, that’s ridiculous.”