FTC Gives Qualified Support to FCC Fight Against Illegal Calls

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By Ayanna Alexander

The Federal Trade Commission has filed comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s initiatives to block unwanted telemarketing robocalls.

But it also urged the FCC to develop solutions for the unlawful robocalls that don’t block businesses that comply with the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The FTC’s comment is in sync with the overall goal of both agencies to block unsolicited callers without hurting legitimate businesses, Daniel Deane, co-leader of Nixon Peabody LLP’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act team, told Bloomberg BNA. The agencies working together to block robocalls is a positive development, he said.

The commissions split jurisdiction as watchdogs of the technology and communications industries. The FTC filed its comments in response to an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking seeking input on authorizing provider-based call blocking.

Specifically, the FTC said, the FCC should:

  •  expand the term “illegal robocalls” to more broadly cover illegal calls;
  •  be able to authorize providers to block suspected illegal calls; and
  •  allow providers to block such calls upon subscriber request.
The FCC has previously said that it receives about 200,000 complaints per year about unwanted calls, including illegal robocalls and calls from telemarketers.

Call Blocking

The FTC supported requiring providers to develop clear and specific procedures to address complaints from individuals and businesses whose calls are inadvertently blocked. But it urged the FCC to be cautious in establishing a mechanism, such as a white list of approved numbers.

Such a mechanism must consider the subject of the call, so that legitimate calls for political, charitable or survey purposes could still be connected, the FTC said.

“It is also promising to see the FCC and FTC focus on the true bad actors rather than continuing to punish legitimate businesses who sometimes run afoul of the TCPA despite good faith efforts to comply,” Deane said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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