The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The proposed rules would institute new caller ID processes aimed at facilitating the blocking of fraudulent robocalls. In essence, the FCC’s proposed rules seek to make “spoofing” more difficult for unscrupulous telemarketers and IRS scam artists. Spoofing is a process through which fake caller ID information is used to mask or misrepresent the caller’s true identity. If the FCC’s new rules go into effect, TCPA lawyers should advise their telemarketing clients that telephone service providers will be given increased power to prevent caller ID spoofing and that, as a result, “false positive” blocking may occur.

What are the FCC’s New Proposed TCPA Rules?

First, the FCC has proposed a rule that will allow telephone service providers to “block calls when the subscriber to a particular telephone number requests that calls originating from that number be blocked.” Additionally, the FCC has proposed a process that “authorizes providers to block calls from three categories of numbers: invalid numbers, valid numbers that are not allocated to a voice service provider, and valid numbers that are allocated but not assigned to a subscriber.” In effect, telephone service providers, whom the FCC notes have “intimate knowledge of the North American Numbering Plan,” will be given the power to block telephone calls based on their knowledge of who such numbers are assigned to. Please note that in situations where legitimate calls are blocked, the FCC has proposed a challenge mechanism for callers who may have been blocked in error.

TCPA Attorneys and Their Clients Must Monitor the FCC’s Proposal

Last summer, we blogged about the FCC’s call for an industry “Strike Force” to combat robocalls. In October of last year, the Strike Force submitted a report to the FCC with suggestions on how to better combat unwanted telemarketing robocalls. The FCC’s new proposed robocall rules represent the codification of some of the proposals made by the Strike Force. TCPA attorneys and their carrier/telemarketing clients will have 45 days from the date of publication to provide comments to the FCC concerning its proposed new rules.