Robocall Strike Force Plan Just “Half a Loaf:” Keep Up the Pressure for Real Change on 2 Billion Robocalls per Month

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Monday, November 7th, 2016

We’ve come a long way in the past year. Without your calls and emails, there’s no way that thirty telephone and tech companies would be meeting to discuss how to end unwanted robocalls. Thanks to you, they did.

Last month, the Robocall Strike Force, led by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, met at the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) headquarters, where they reported on their assignment from the FCC over the last two months of work to stop robocalls. Together, we called on the companies–with letters and thousands of emails–to make a firm commitment to end irritating and harmful robocalls that interrupt work, sleep, and time with family.  

Despite the pressure, there was not enough progress, and the phone companies failed to deliver on sweeping changes to end robocalls.

Specifically, the companies missed the opportunity to take concrete steps, including offering free, advanced call-blocking tools–even though we, along with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, repeatedly called on the phone companies to do so. Instead, the companies unveiled a website with information on stopping robocalls. And while AT&T has said that they will be “ready” with Caller ID verification technology in the last quarter of 2017, there’s no word on the progress of the other companies, nor have they provided the public with a firm commitment or deadline to implement changes. And although the Strike Force worked together with the IRS on a successful trial of Do Not Originate that led to a 90% reduction in IRS robocall scam complaints, the Strike Force isn’t yet willing to take it out of the trial stage and commit to making it a standard practice.

The FCC agreed that the Strike Force’s work wasn’t up to snuff. At the meeting, a bipartisan majority of FCC commissioners took the phone companies to task for their incomplete plan. Chairman Wheeler said that “there is significantly more work to be done,” and outlined exactly how the Strike Force’s work failed to measure up. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel withheld praise, pointing out that “there are no prizes for participation” and declaring “no mission accomplished until the calls stop.”

Chairman Wheeler demanded that the phone companies return in six months to report on their progress. He also urged them to “be aggressive” in offering real solutions to the robocall problem affecting millions of Americans.

The phone companies still have a long way to go, and we need your continued help to keep up the pressure. We’ve come this far – we can’t let up until the phone companies stop robocalls! Click here to send a message to AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to tell them to provide free call-blocking tools to their customers without any further delay.

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