State AGs target telcos that carry illegal robocalls

Fifty state attorneys general are forming an Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force. This task force will investigate and take legal action against telecommunications companies responsible for carrying illegal robocalls.

The litigation task force was announced on August 2 by three state AGs leading the formation of this group:

These AGs were joined by similar announcements from other state AGs. The announcements explain the mission of the task force as follows:

  • Gateway providers that bring foreign traffic into the U.S. telephone network have a responsibility to ensure the traffic is legal.
  • These providers are not taking sufficient action to stop robocall traffic. In many cases, they appear to be intentionally turning a blind eye in return for steady revenue.
  • The task force will focus on the bad actors throughout the telecommunications industry to help reduce the number of illegal robocalls.

Going after robocall-friendly providers

The FTC and state AGs have been using a known-or-should-have-known standard in holding providers accountable for carrying illegal robocalls.

In the most recent case, Ohio AG Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against an organization sending auto warranty robocalls. At the same time, the FCC sent cease-and-desist letters to eight providers that carried these calls.

In previous cease-and-desist cases, providers promptly complied with the letters. In this case, however, not one of the eight providers responded.

So, the FCC Enforcement Bureau issued an order directing all U.S.-based providers investigate, mitigate robocalls, and report mitigation efforts for all traffic from these eight providers or simply stop accepting traffic from them. Since refusing their traffic is the easier alternative, we assume this order put the eight providers out of business.

How providers stay out of robocall trouble

What should honest providers do to stay out of robocall trouble? Here’s the short answer:

  1. Know your customers and upstream providers. This means vetting them before providing service and accepting traffic.
  2. Monitor the traffic you originate for customers and transit from upstream providers. This means look for signs of robocalls that might be unlawful.

The Best Practices for the Implementation of Call Authentication Frameworks document from the NANC Call Authentication Trust Anchor Working Group (CATA) is a good place to start. Section 3.1 describes vetting practices at a high level.

A very rigorous, detailed example

Perhaps the most detailed robocall mitigation requirements we’ve seen are in a compliance agreement between the Ohio AG and G4 Telecom. The Ohio AG found that G4 was carrying unlawful robocalls. In this agreement, the Ohio AG dropped charges against G4, which agreed to the robocall mitigation program in the agreement and to pay $20,000 to cover Ohio’s investigation costs.

Sections 23-34, found on pages 11-21 of the agreement, describe the robocall mitigation plan that G4 agreed to follow. There’s quite a lot in this plan; here’s an outline.

Sections 26 and 27 describe the process for screening all new customers and annual rescreening of all existing customers. This involves collection and verification of about 16 different types of information for customers that do telemarketing.

Section 28 describes 14 conditions that would cause G4 to refuse service to a new customer or terminate an existing customer relationship. Most of these conditions involve vetting information provided by the customer.

A few conditions involve traffic monitoring:

  • The customer is a telemarketer and is the source of 5,000 or more telephone calls in one day utilizing prerecorded messages and does not provide G4 with prior notice of the campaign and a copy of the prerecorded message.
  • The customer provides VoIP services and 15% or more of calls it terminates onto G4’s network in one day last less than six seconds and G4 determines that such calls were unlawful robocalls.

If you want to see what a detailed robocall mitigation plan looks like, check out this agreement.


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