AT&T has come forward to take a firm step toward putting a check on robocalls. The announcement came just few months after AT&T’s CEO claimed that they cannot do anything to stop the unwanted calls.
Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T said that the company does not have authority to put a stop to robocalls, though the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) clarified that the carriers are allowed to provide robocall-blocking services to cell phone users. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, last week addressed the carriers urging them to “offer call-blocking services to their customers now—at no cost to [consumers],” and the second largest carrier in the nation has thrown down its previous averseness.
In a latest statement passed by AT&T Senior VP Bob Quinn, he said Stephenson will lead the new “Robocalling Strike Force, the mission of which will be to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions to abate the proliferation of robocalls and to make recommendations to the FCC on the role government can play in this battle.” Stephenson got a letter from the FCC’s Wheeler that robocalls are having adverse effect on the industry as well as users. In response, AT&T has decided to take necessary action against these annoying and illegitimate calls.
The strike force will coordinate with carriers to make a “Do Not Originate” list for recognizing apprehensive calls that originate from outside of the country. The company also shared that it will “facilitate efforts by other carriers to adopt call blocking technologies on their networks.”
AT&T users can make use of Nomorobo call blocking, a free, third-party service that decreases robocalls and automated telemarketing calls to your VoIP landlines and does not include traditional landlines or wireless service. It recognizes calls from known robocallers and disconnects the call before you take it.
AT&T’s initiative is being appreciated by Wheeler and he has asked the rest of carriers to come forward.
The act that would coerce service providers to enable customers to block unwanted automated and prerecorded robocalls was introduced two months ago by Jackie Speier, Congresswoman. Under the act, consumers would have the choice of whether or not they want to use a call blocker. The bill is currently lying indolently in committee. The reason cited by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, mentions that permission needs to be given from FCC and without its approval, robocall blockers cannot be deployed, which authorities have claimed to be wrong.
Chuck Schumer, New York Senator, announced at his weekly press event on Sunday that he would be reintroducing the ROBOCOP Act, which would instruct the FCC to necessitate that telephone service providers give their customers access to robocall-blocking technology without any charge.
“Despite the existing ‘Do Not Call’ registry, the robocall problem has returned in a serious way,” said Schumer. “It’s an epidemic that we’ve got to stop — whether it’s the landline or the mobile phone. It’s taking far too long for telecom companies to act.”
Chuck Bell from Consumers Union was also present to stand beside Schumer in demanding federal lawmakers do something about robocalls.
He said “Most Americans have signed up for the Do Not Call list, but the unwanted calls from telemarketers and scam artists have just gotten worse.”
The present mounting issue with robocalls is that the majority of them come from ID thieves and scammers, who care about very little about any laws against the practice. Most of these use spoofed numbers, which is legal if done without intention to defraud, such as protecting news sources. But it also makes it much more difficult for investigators to track culprits.
In spite of the availability of certain methods to reduce these calls, the number that has been deployed so far by telecom service providers on any large scale is very small.
Certain campaigns to end robocalls have been ongoing to compel companies to stop making excuses and block the infuriating robocalls.
Despite of the best efforts to regulate and legislate the robocalls, still consumers complain about the unwanted prerecorded and auto-dialed robocalls. Now, this is not just one man’s problem- thousands of people have come together to curb this practice. Today, a petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people who want the nation’s telecom providers to do something about robocalls to the AT&T headquarters in Texas.
Though there are tools that allow the individuals to put up robocall roadblocks on their own, but the telecom industry hasn’t taken any strict action to put a halt on such calls. The providers who offer options to block specific numbers generally charge a specific amount for the service or put limits on this sort of blacklisting. For example, AT&T allows their landline customers to pay a certain amount to block up to ten numbers and all anonymous callers. Likewise, Verizon also charges a specific price to block either six or twelve numbers or more. Generally, it depends on your service area.
However, the critics argue that- “this sort of customer-generated blacklist puts the onus on the consumer, and that such small blacklists are often pointless when dealing with scammy robocallers who use spoofed phone numbers and bogus Caller ID information to mask where they are really calling from.”
Consumers Union and concerned Dallas-area consumers delivered that petition to AT&T headquarters. “We’re calling on companies to step in and act and provide companies with free and effective tools to block these tools before they get to their homes,” explained Consumers Union End Robocalls campaign leader Tim Marvin.
In a statement to Consumerist, AT&T acknowledges that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. “Robocalls are an industry-wide issue and we continue to work closely with the government and industry partners to make improvements,” reads the statement. “We appreciate Consumers Union’s input and will continue our work to help find solutions.”
Moreover,CU has already delivered this petition to Verizon and CenturyLink.
Seeing the current scenario where more than 800 robocalls are being made every second in US, the consumers hope that industry understands the problem and will look into the matter seriously.
The Indiana Attorney General’s office plans to address the growing problem of robocalls in 2016 by pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and phone companies to better address the issue. Unwanted calls, as well as texts, are one of the major complaints to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, with more than 13000 complaints filed every year.
Robocalls can be termed as automated calls and recordings you receive that companies or scammers generate with computers.
Greg Zoeller said, “In over an hour, they can blast out literally a million calls as we’ve really had a massive increase n robocalling.“ Zoeller also added it’s very difficult to find robocallers because most of them originate from outside of the United States. “I can’t stop an overseas call. I need help from the federal government,” said Zoeller. “If you react at all, if you don’t hang up immediately, they will definitely sell that to credit card companies and say they stayed on the line, they pressed one.”
Zoeller has recently joined 45 state attorneys general in calling on major phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to offer call blocking technology to various customers. Currently, some carriers are offering call-blocking, but such services often have limitations as they don’t offer more mass blocking options that would stop calls before the customer receives it. Zoeller confirmed that he has made plans to work with the FCC and other telecom providers in an effort to end illegal robocalls. In the meantime, the Attorney General said that you can ditch your landline which tends to get more unwanted calls.
Zoeller has warned the public not to engage in such robocall conversations or push any buttons. He has also advised hanging up as soon as possible as it will help you receive fewer calls because it won’t get registered.