Prepaid Carrier Shows that Phone Companies Have the Technology to Stop Robocalls

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Friday, October 14th, 2016

The Robocall Strike Force – the group of over thirty companies formed at the request of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to put a stop to the unwanted robocall problem – will be gathering later this month to outline their plan of attack against spam and other unwanted calls. But some companies are getting a head start by showing that phone companies have the technology now to protect their customers from unwanted robocalls. Recently, prepaid cell phone carrier RingPlus rolled out a new tool that leverages information provided by the FCC and RingPlus’s customers to automatically identify and block unwanted robocalls.

Called a “Universal Blacklist,” RingPlus’s new anti-robocall technology screens out scam numbers reported by the FCC. Customers can also create their own personal “blacklists” by pressing a few buttons after they receive an unwanted call. Customers also have the option of blocking all anonymous calls for free by enabling that feature. New RingPlus customers will find the Universal Blacklist already enabled for their phones and may opt-out online. Existing customers can turn on the service through their customer portals.

According to RingPlus, they developed the technology in just a few days, and are willing to share the technology with any other phone company. In contrast, for years many phone companies have resisted offering their customers advanced call-blocking tools, claiming that they didn’t have the legal authority or technology to do so.

This is the latest in a series of developments in call-blocking technology since the Robocall Strike Force was created this summer. For example, Sprint recently announced a partnership to create an Enhanced Caller ID service that would help consumers identify suspicious calls. YouMail, a company that offers a call-blocking service, recently launched an API that other companies could license to pinpoint spam calls. And with the new iOS 10 update, call-blocking apps like Nomorobo, Hiya, and TrueCaller are expanding to iPhones.

The pressure is on the Robocall Strike Force to develop a plan that offers consumers immediate protection from unwanted robocalls. You can help us make sure that the Strike Force offers comprehensive, effective solutions that offer consumers real relief from unwanted robocalls. Click here to send a message to Strike Force members AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to demand that they give their customers immediate relief from these annoying, and often harmful, calls.

Update: Consumers Union recommends that consumers closely evaluate what kind of information they’re willing to disclose to prevent robocalls, so review the privacy policy before signing up for any call-blocking app or service.

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