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The Fight to Stop Robocalls

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If technology exists that could stop scammy robocalls before they pester and cheat Americans, why don’t phone companies use it?  That’s the crux of a letter sent Tuesday by attorneys general from 39 states and territories to the Federal Communications Commission.

Software with names like NoMoRobo, Call Control and Telemarketing Guard can root out many unwanted and potentially criminal calls, the AGs said.

Illegal telemarketing calls are a source of irritation and fraud,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “Enforcement efforts alone will not solve the problem. We need to determine whether call-blocking technologies can be used by phone companies to protect consumers from unwanted calls and scams.”

The telephone industry is reluctant to use technology to stop calls, however, because it believes doing so would be illegal. In testimony submitted to Congress last year, representatives of telecom firms said they have a statutory obligation to complete calls.

At the moment, phone calls are blocked only by direct customer request, and then, only specific numbers are blocked. Robocallers have become proficient at evading such hurdles.

In its letter, the attorneys general ask FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to make a legal determination about the use of new call-blocking technologies.

“State law enforcement officials are doing everything possible to track down and prosecute those that engage in illegal telemarketing. However, law enforcement cannot fight this battle alone. Call-blocking technology like NoMoRobo, Call Control, and Telemarketing Guard appears to be the first major advancement towards a solution,” it reads. “Nonetheless, the telephone companies’ resistance to embrace call-blocking technology, as evidenced (by industry response to Congress) raises important questions. If a solution to the nation’s illegal telemarketing problem is possible, it will require the private sector — including telephone carriers — to get involved.”

States and territories that signed the letter to the FCC are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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