MA Attorney General joins coalition against illegal robocalls

Marcony Almeida

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Attorney General Maura Healey joined 34 state attorneys general in calling the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and telephone service providers to implement new technologies and policies that would block more illegal robocalls.

“Robocalls are costly, invasive, and tools for scammers,” said AG Healey. “The telephone companies have the technology to stop these robocalls and it’s time for them to use it.” Robocalls are the most frequently complained about issue to AG Healey’s consumer assistance hotline. In July 2018, Americans received an estimated four billion robocalls and DoNotCall.gov receives about 11,000 complaints a month from Massachusetts consumers.

The multistate comments submitted this week call on all domestic and international carriers to implement a technology standard that allows carriers to authenticate the source of a call, block certain high-risk calls from reaching their subscribers, and send a warning to their customer about calls that are unverified or a likely scam. These warnings would allow the customer to choose whether to block the call or let it go to voicemail.

The attorneys general sent the comments in response to a public notice issued by the FCC in August 2018 concerning advanced methods to target and eliminate unlawful robocalls. In that notice, the FCC asked for comments on whether carriers can reliably block unlawful calls and methods they can implement to prevent unlawful calls from reaching consumers.

Several major telecom companies, including Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and T-Mobile, filed comments with the FCC describing some of the methods they use to block illegal calls, stressing the need for a safe harbor from litigation when they do block calls, and indicating that they anticipate call authentication to be implemented by the end of 2019.

In June 2017, AG Healey and the attorneys general of New York and Kentucky filed comments with the FCC opposing a petition requesting that so-called “ringless robocalls” be exempt from consumer protections under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The AG’s Office emphasizes consumer education and encourages consumers to take proactive measures to stop unwanted robocalls:

Smartphone users should install a call blocking app and consumers should ask their telephone companies about options for blocking robocalls to landlines.

Consumers should sign up for the Do Not Call list at DoNotCall.gov to get on both the state and federal do not call list.

If you get a robocall, just hang up the phone. Don’t engage the scammer at all and report the call to DoNotCall.gov.

The AG’s Consumer Advocacy & Response Division (CARD) is equipped with specialists that can answer questions, refer consumers to a wide network of assistance services, or directly assist consumers in resolving their problems. The AG’s consumer hotline can be reached at 617-727-8400 and is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit https://www.mass.gov/get-consumer-support for more information.

Joining AG Healey in signing on to Tuesday’s comment letter are state attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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