5 On Your Side

States ask FCC to allow tools to block robocalls

Posted September 9, 2014 5:24 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina is among 39 states that on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to allow phone companies to use call-blocking technologies that would better protect consumers from unwanted calls and scams.

Call-blocking technologies, such as NoMoRobo, Call Control and Telemarketing Guard, have been developed to enable phone carriers to identify and block pre-recorded, automated sales calls at their customers’ request. However, some phone carriers have not implemented the technology, claiming in part that federal law prevents them from blocking calls on their consumers’ behalf.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he and other state attorneys general are asking the FCC to recognize call-blocking filters as legally appropriate, if requested by customers.

“Each year, thousands of consumers complain to my office about annoying robocalls that hold their phone lines hostage,” Cooper said in a statement. “Fraudulent telemarketers are using technology to scam consumers and evade law enforcement, and it’s time to even the playing field and use technology to give consumers some relief.”

Last year, unwanted telemarketing calls topped the list of consumer complaints to North Carolina's Consumer Protection Division, with 5,076 complaints. Most of those were illegal robocalls pitching lower credit card interest rates, computer repairs, burglar alarms and medical alert systems. Robocalls also are frequently used to try to steal money or personal information, Cooper said.

Many consumers who get these calls have already signed up for Do Not Call Registry, indicating that they don’t want to get telemarketing sales calls. While most legitimate companies respect consumers’ wishes and abide by the registry, he said, those out to commit fraud continue to make unwanted calls, often from overseas and via robocall.

“If a solution to the nation’s illegal telemarketing problem is possible, it will require the private sector, including telephone carriers, to get involved,” the attorneys general wrote the FCC.