The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) have announced they will host a joint policy forum (“Forum”) in Washington, D.C. on March 23 titled, “Fighting the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls.” The Forum will cover recent policy changes and enforcement actions as well as the agencies’ efforts to encourage private sector technological solutions. We believe the event will be of interest to clients who launch legitimate account management or marketing campaigns from autodialers as well as those whose names have been misappropriated by fraudulent telemarketers.
The agenda will be posted on the event page when it becomes available. The FCC will likely use the venue to announce a “Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on reducing unwanted calls to reassigned phone numbers, which is scheduled for a vote during the agency’s March 22 meeting. According to the FCC, the notice would:
- Propose to ensure that one or more databases are available to provide callers with the comprehensive and timely information they need to avoid calling reassigned numbers.
- Seek comment on the information that callers who choose to use a reassigned numbers database need from such a database.
- Seek comment on the best way for service providers to report that information and for callers to access that information, including the following three alternatives:
- requiring service providers to report reassigned number information to a single, FCC-designated database;
- requiring service providers to report that information to one or more commercial data aggregators; or
- allowing service providers to report that information to commercial data aggregators on a voluntary basis.
- Seek comment on whether, and if so how, the FCC should adopt a safe harbor from liability under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for those callers that choose to use a reassigned numbers database.
This follows rules that became effective last month permitting voice service providers to proactively block calls from certain numbers that are suspected to be fraudulent. (You can read our summary of the FCC’s Report and Order adopting these rules here.)
A central theme of the Forum is likely to be collaboration between the FTC and FCC as well as between the agencies and the private sector. Such collaboration helps the agencies prevent and target illegal robocall scams, such as the spoofing scheme that made nearly 100 million robocalls and illegitimately invoked the names of major hotel and travel brands to sell vacation packages, resulting in a $120 million forfeiture order by the FCC in June 2017. Spoofing, which is a common tool used in robocall scam campaigns, involves altering or manipulating caller ID information to hide or falsify the identity or number of the calling party.
On April 23 (one month after the Forum), the agencies will host a “Stop Illegal Robocalls Expo” for consumers. Companies that offer technologies, devices and applications to minimize or eliminate illegal robocalls may request to exhibit at the Expo by contacting the FCC staff listed here by midnight on March 23.