Robocalls: everyone receives one or two, but more likely dozens.  While some are helpful, most are annoying, and the worst can result in financial fraud.  While the FCC and Congress have been taking steps toward addressing the issue, state attorneys general (AGs) have taken the first major action to end unwanted robocalls.  On August 22, AGs from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, together with 12 large telecom companies, announced a new framework to address the billions of unwanted robocalls that consumers receive every year.

The announced memorandum of understanding is a voluntary set of principles, under which the telecom companies agree to:

  1. Offer free call blocking and labeling.
  2. Implement STIR/SHAKEN, a call authentication system to combat illegal caller ID spoofing.
  3. Analyze and monitor high-volume voice network traffic.
  4. Investigate suspicious calls and calling patterns and take appropriate action, including notifying law enforcement.
  5. Confirm the identity of new commercial VoIP customers.
  6. Require traceback cooperation in contracts.
  7. Cooperate in traceback investigations.
  8. Continue cooperating with state AGs in devising further means of combatting illegal robocalls.

Although the voluntary principles do not include specific enforcement mechanisms, AGs may be able to enforce the principles under existing state laws.  AGs already have the ability to initiate actions under existing consumer protection laws for deceptive conduct; if any of the participating telecom companies do not abide by the principles, they could face liability under those laws.

While participating telecom providers are likely already implementing plans to comply with these principles, the ripples from this announcement may affect other businesses as well.  Due to the increased verification requirements, non-telecom companies can expect to provide their voice call providers with additional information during their next contract cycle or execute addendums ensuring compliance with these principles.  And companies in all industries should be aware that state AGs have powerful tools in their arsenals to protect consumers.