FCC approves new robocall blocking rules on safe harbor

The FCC today voted to approve new robocall blocking rules required by the TRACED Act and published by the FCC in their rulemaking on March 31, 2020. These rules involve safe harbor. Here’s an overview.

New rules

The new rules provide safe harbor protection from liability for unintentional or inadvertent blocking of wanted calls while attempting to block illegal or unwanted robocalls.

  1. The first rule protects phone companies that use reasonable analytics, including caller ID authentication, to identify and block illegal or unwanted robocalls.
  2. The second rule protects providers that block calls from upstream providers that are known to pass illegal or unwanted calls and have been notified but failed to take action to stop such calls.
Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman

“[I]n today’s Order, we [assure] terminating service providers that good-faith blocking of calls will not result in liability under the Communications Act and Commission rules if they inadvertently block wanted calls,” said Ajit Pai, FCC Chairman. “This safe harbor is only available to entities that block calls based on reasonable analytics designed to identify unwanted calls.”

“These reasonable analytics must be based in part on information provided by the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication framework, where such information is available for a particular call. And for non-IP based calls, this safe harbor is available for blocked calls based on any other effective call authentication framework that satisfies the TRACED Act.”

Proposed rulemaking

The Commission also issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek comment on the following:

  • Whether to obligate phone companies to better police their networks against illegal calls;
  • Whether to require phone companies to provide information about blocked calls to consumers for free;
  • Notification and effective redress mechanisms for callers when their calls are blocked;
  • Whether measures are necessary to address the mislabeling of calls.

These actions are the Third Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Fourth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 20-96).

FCC approves new robocall blocking rules