Business and Economics

AGs Seek Federal Help To Protect Consumers From Unwanted Calls

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September 10, 2014 — TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS –Nearly 40 state and territorial attorneys general have signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission requesting that phone companies be able to take extra steps to protect customers from unwanted calls or phone scams.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed the official comments – co-sponsored by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster – Tuesday with the FCC. In the letter, Zoeller urged the commission to deem call-blocking filters as legally appropriate, but only if requested by customers.

“Attorneys general across the country have worked tirelessly to protect consumers’ privacy in their homes against illegal and intrusive telemarketing calls, robo-calls and phone scammers,” Zoeller said in a written statement.

Improved call-blocking technology has been recently developed, but some carriers are refusing to take advantage of programs such as NoMoRobo, Call Control, and Telemarking Guard, due to alleged beliefs that federal law prevents carriers from blocking calls on the customer’s behalf.

Questions have been raised about the FCC’s legal framework that prohibits phone companies from filtering calls that should be blocked and about which calls can go through to the customer.

“Unfortunately, the FCC has failed to support our efforts to keep up with the rapidly advancing technology that gives telemarketers and criminals new ways to evade state law and victimize Hoosiers,” Zoeller said.

In a effort to try to explain the challenges phone carriers encounter when implementing call-blocking technologies, US Telecom wrote to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance in 2013, saying “the FCC has concluded that call blocking is an unjust and unreasonable practice under section 201(b) of the Communications Act of 1934.”

In Zoeller’s comments to the FCC, he asked for a formal opinion as to whether an exception can be made for phone carriers so that they may filter unwanted calls and prevent scams. Earlier this year, Zoeller supported a resolution passed by state lawmakers that requested the FCC be more aggressive in regulating telemarketing calls.

Last year, Zoeller’s office received more than 14,000 complaints about unwanted calls, with more than 50 percent involving robo-calls. Since January, the attorney general’s office has received nearly 9,163 complaints from consumers who received a telemarketing call from either a live operator or a prerecorded message.

Hoosiers that receive fraudulent or solicited calls are encouraged to sign up for the Indiana Do Not Call List. The registry helps deter unwanted calls and text messages from reaching customers. To sign up, visit www.IndianaConsumer.com or call 1-888-834-9969.

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