MBA, Trade Groups Submit Recommendations to FCC on Robocall Draft Order

The Mortgage Bankers Association and nearly a dozen industry trade groups sent a letter this month to the Federal Communications Commission offering recommendations to improve an FCC draft order addressing robocalls and “spoofing.”

The TRACED Act, passed in 2019, directs the FCC to issue rules: (1) requiring service providers to adopt a system (i.e. the “SHAKEN/STIR” framework) to authenticate callers and block bad actors; (2) establishing a safe harbor for service providers who, using reasonable analytics, erroneously block legitimate calls; and (3) creating a redress mechanism for callers whose calls have been improperly blocked. The draft order addresses (1) and (2).

The trade groups’ concerns center on while the Draft Order provides a safe harbor for telephone companies (voice service providers) that block calls based on “reasonable analytics designed to identify unwanted calls,” as long as the analytics incorporates call authentication information into the blocking decision.

“The Associations share the Commission’s goal to eliminate illegal automated calls,” the letter said. “At the same time, it is critical that the Commission’s rules governing call-blocking practices protect consumers from the risk that they might not receive important, often time-sensitive, calls from health care providers, finance companies, banks, credit unions, other participants in the financial services marketplace, retailers and other legitimate businesses.”

The letter noted when outbound calling numbers used by legitimate businesses are mislabeled, or calls from those numbers are blocked, “consumers are harmed because they may not receive lawful calls affecting their health, safety or financial well-being. These calls include, for example, safety alerts, fraud alerts, data security breach notifications, product recall notices, healthcare and prescription reminders, power outage updates, and other necessary account updates needed to maintain financial health. It is critical for consumers that these calls be completed without delay, and that the caller and call recipient are notified immediately when a call is blocked. When those calls are blocked, the Commission’s rules should ensure that businesses can promptly have the block removed.”

And while the Draft Order mandates that voice service providers provide a single point of contact on their websites, resolve disputes within a reasonable amount of time and promptly remove blocks where there is erroneous blocking. the caller must know that its calls are being blocked. “Consequently, we urge the Commission to require the blocking entity to notify callers immediately that it is blocking their calls. Without a notification requirement, no call-blocking service can be performed with ‘transparency…for…callers,’ as the TRACED Act requires.”

The letter offers various recommendations for how the Draft Order should be improved. These include:

–The Commission should require a voice service provider to remove an erroneous block within 24 hours of the provider’s learning of the block.

–The Commission should clarify and confirm that a terminating service provider that blocks calls is prohibited from imposing a charge on callers for reporting, investigating, resolving, and, as appropriate, removing erroneous blocks promptly.

–The Commission should confirm that the obligation on terminating voice service providers to provide callers with effective redress options applies equally to mislabeled outbound calling numbers.

–The Commission should confirm that implementing the required redress mechanism is a condition of receiving the protections of the safe harbor.

–The Commission should ensure terminating voice service providers do not block a fully authenticated call unless the provider can determine with a high degree of certainty that the call is unlawful through application of objective, defined criteria, and after investigation into the call.

Joining MBA in the letter: the American Bankers Association; ACA International; the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management; the American Financial Services Association; the Consumer Bankers Association; Credit Union National Association; the National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.