Big Telecom, Every U.S. State Vow to End America's Robocall Hell

Major phone companies are telling the country’s state attorneys general that they will do more against robocalls. It’s the latest step from government and industry to combat the growing problem.
Photo: AP

Twelve major phones companies and the attorneys general of every state in the U.S. announced a plan on Thursday intended not only to stem the flood of illegal robocalls that have forced many Americans to stop answering their phones, but aid law enforcement in hunting down the soulless ghouls responsible.

“Robocalls are a scourge—at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” said Josh Stein, the attorney general of North Carolina, who helped spearhead the coalition.

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At the National Press Club, Stein and his counterparts in 49 states and the District of Columbia announced a plan to combat the billions and billions of unwanted, automated calls plaguing Americans with the help of voice service providers and a series of “principles.” The effort includes increased use of trace-back technology that aid law enforcement in apprehending criminal robocallers and call authentication, which aides in preventing robocallers from concealing their identities.

The companies involved in the coalition include AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, CenturyLink, U.S. Cellular, Charter, Frontier, Windstream, Bandwidth Inc., and Consolidated Communications.

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“For virtually all of us, the spam calls are a ubiquitous and regular annoyance. But robocalls are also a very effective device for illegal conduct by financial scammers who prey, particularly on the vulnerable, putting at risk their savings, their identity, their security,” said New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

“The unfortunate reality for our offices, which are on the front line of dealing with this scourge, is that our ability to protect the public through investigation and enforcement of our consumer protection and do-not-call laws has been limited.”

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MacDonald added that the partnership with the phone companies will hopefully encourage increased use of call-blocking and authentication technologies, enhance enforcement efforts by the providers, and increase cooperation with the industry going forward.

The agreement is not legally binding, however, and adhering to the principles outlined in the so-called memorandum does not release the providers from having to comply with other state and federal regulations, it says.

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The agreement comes as Congress is preparing to pass wildly popular legislation that would compel the Federal Communications Commission to implement new rules requiring the use of the same technologies and other assistance at no cost to consumers. The bipartisan bill, known as the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, was passed by the House last month by a nearly unanimous vote.

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Dell Cameron

Privacy, security, tech policy | Got a tip? Email: dell@gizmodo.com | Send me encrypted texts using Signal: (202)556-0846

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