On Tuesday, January 23, ACA International submitted comments in response to a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) adopted by the Federal Communications Commission on Nov. 17, 2017.
After issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March 2017, the FCC adopted rules in a Report and Order enabling voice service providers to block four categories of calls that are highly likely to be unlawful, including calls from phone numbers on a Do-Not-Originate list and calls from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers.
At the same time the FCC adopted the final rules, the FCC also adopted an FNPRM to seek comment on much-needed call blocking mitigation options. This FNPRM is an important step to establish a clear framework in which callers will have a way to know their calls are being blocked, as well as to develop a mechanism by which to remove improper blocking promptly.
ACA INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE
In the comments, ACA emphasizes that it is critical that the FCC ensures that robocall processing solutions, i.e. call blocking and call labeling services, do not inadvertently cause legitimate calls to be blocked, harming lawful business communications and depriving consumers of important, timely information.
ACA asserts that legitimate call originators have a need to know if a call has been blocked, as well as a need for a clear pathway to quickly rectify any errors. However, ACA points out that neither one of these fundamental needs is presently being met due to a lack of guidance from the FCC when it gave the green light to enable consumer-initiated call blocking in the omnibus 2015 TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order. To remedy these issues and to ensure consistent call blocking mitigation mechanisms are in place, ACA urges the FCC to adopt call blocking mitigation mechanisms that apply both to provider-initiated and consumer-initiated call blocking. ACA also highlights the similarity of problems associated with call labeling services and urges the FCC to consider future mitigation mechanisms in that context as well.
In addition, ACA discusses the negative impact that erroneous call blocking and improper labeling has had on legitimate debt collection calls. ACA shares preliminary feedback from its ongoing survey of ACA member experiences with call processing tools which demonstrates the need for callers to know when a call has been blocked, the challenges associated with not having a clear and reliable mechanism for fixing errors, and the resulting harm to consumers who cannot be reached to resolve their accounts.
Finally, ACA offers input on specific questions posed by the FCC in the FNPRM. In ACA’s view, the FCC should require providers who offer call blocking services, whether provider initiated or consumer initiated, to:
(1) indicate a call has been blocked on a per-call basis using a defined, unique signaling code;
(2) make available a defined, easy to use mechanism for callers to inquire about the blocking status of a number or set of numbers; and
(3) make available a defined, easy to use mechanism for callers to challenge the status of a blocked number or set of numbers.
ACA believes that through these reasonable mitigation measures, the FCC will achieve a better balance of protecting consumers from unlawful robocalls while ensuring consumers are not inadvertently losing access to important communications with legitimate businesses.
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