Few things rankle consumers as much as unwanted calls and texts. Thanks to the passage of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, consumers can choose which calls they want and do not want. Yet, in order to maintain those protections, we must continue to close loopholes and empower consumers. The responsibility to protect consumers from robocalls that can be both costly and intrusive does not expire with changes in technology.
That's why I am proposing today the Commission crack down on robocalls, robotexts, and telemarketing calls – the number one source of consumer complaints at the FCC.
Last year alone, we received more than 215,000 complaints related to unwanted and intrusive calls and texts. The filer of one complaint detailed receiving 4,700 unwanted texts over a 6-month period. We've also seen reports of 27,809 unsolicited text messages over 17 months to one reassigned number, despite requests to stop the texts.
The Commission has received numerous petitions from companies – including bankers, debt collectors, app developers, retail stores, and others – seeking clarity on our consumer rules. I intend to use these petitions as an opportunity to empower consumers and curtail these intrusive communications.
I am proposing that the Commission rule on more than 20 pending petitions related to consumer protection and send one clear message: consumers have the right to control the calls and texts they receive, and the FCC is moving to enforce those rights and protect consumers against robocalls, spam texts, and telemarketing.
We will empower and protect consumers in a number of ways.
First, we are giving the green light for robocall-blocking technology, declaring that these market-based solutions can be offered without violating our call-completion rules. The FCC wants to make it clear: telephone companies can – and in fact should – offer consumers robocall-blocking tools.
Second, we close a number of potential loopholes. For example, we clarify the definition of "autodialers" to include any technology with the potential to dial random or sequential numbers. This ruling is true to Congress's intent when passing the law, and would ensure that robocallers cannot skirt consent requirements through changes in technology design. We also close the "reassigned number" loophole, making clear that consumers who inherit a phone number will not be subject to a barrage of unwanted robocalls OK'd by the previous owner of the number.
Third, we make it easier for consumers to say "no" to robocalls. People won't have to fill out a form and mail it in to stop unwanted calls and texts. Any reasonable way of saying "no" is allowed.
We will allow some very limited and specific exceptions, such as alerts to possible fraud on your bank account or a reminder to refill important medications. But these exemptions do NOT include practices like debt collection and marketing, and consumers will have the right to opt-out of such calls.
At the FCC, we see consumer protection as one of our most fundamental missions.
We have acted consistently to uphold this responsibility from ensuring the Internet remain fast, fair and open to taking action to make certain consumers get what they pay for and companies follow the rules. With today's proposal to limit unwanted robocalls and spam texts, we seek to secure yet another win for consumers.