PHILADELPHIA, PA — A looming deadline should finally force all U.S. phone companies to take stopping robocalls seriously. However, only one-third of the largest mobile and home phone providers nationwide — and a more disappointing percentage of smaller telecommunications companies — have installed caller ID verification aimed at squashing illegal robocalls, even though most of those businesses were required to do so by June. The stakes get higher Sept. 28.
“How much longer are we going to tolerate people’s lives being destroyed when they fall for an imposter call that looks like it’s coming from their bank or the IRS? This is inexcusable, it has to stop, and phone company compliance will make a big difference,” said Emma Horst-Martz, PennPIRG Education Fund Advocate. The PennPIRG Education Fund published a new report this week, Make the Ringing Stop: The FCC is Finally Fighting Back Against Robocalls. “Phone companies have known about this deadline for five years. The FCC told companies to do this three years ago and Congress passed a law mandating it nearly two years ago.”
“Robocall scams are not just an annoyance — they are illegal, and are designed to rip off Pennsylvanians, especially seniors,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “I’m calling on these phone companies to hurry up and meet the deadline to shut down these invasive and costly scam attempts. I encourage Pennsylvanians receiving unwanted calls to register on the Pennsylvania Do Not Call list, and to file complaints with our office if these calls persist. We are committed to continuing to combat robocall scams on behalf of all Pennsylvanians.”
Overall, among 3,063 telecommunications providers who reported their status to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as of this month and who the FCC did not exempt from submitting information:
- Only 17 percent said they’d completely implemented anti-robocall technology, called STIR/SHAKEN.
- 27 percent had partially implemented the technology.
- 56 percent said they were not using the industry standard technology but rather are using their own methods to manage robocalls.
“Here we are with more than 80 percent of phone companies not doing all they can to stop robocalls. These unwanted calls terrorize all of us and victimize many of us,” said Horst-Martz. “As if the $10 billion a year in fraud losses from illegal robocalls isn’t bad enough, they cost us Americans another $3 billion a year in wasted time.”
While robocalls have declined slightly this summer, regulators need to move up the deadline for smaller companies, who have until June 2023 to upgrade their technology. The attorneys general in all 50 states are calling for this as well because illegal robocallers are flocking to phone companies with weak robocall detection.
“As elected officials, we should always work to protect consumers, but providers bear some responsibility as well,” said state Representative Robert Matzie, Democratic Chair of the House Consumer Affairs Committee. “This report shows bad actors, good actors, and those in between. We’ve made strides, but much more needs to be done.”
PennPIRG Education Fund looked closer at 49 of the largest mobile and home phone companies in the United States (those that can serve 1 million or more). Only 16 of them have told the FCC that they have completely implemented anti-robocall technology. An additional 18 have partially implemented the technology. The remaining 15 companies have told the FCC they haven’t adopted the industry standard technology at all and they’re using their own methods to reduce robocalls, or they have not reported their status to the FCC’s database, as required by law.
Starting Sept. 28, phone providers are required to block calls from companies that haven’t at least reported their status to the FCC.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in robocalls in the past few years, even with new efforts to regulate them, said Senator John Kane. “And these calls aren’t just annoying — they present serious scam risks, especially to seniors. We need to be making sure the regulations are enforced, and that we’re working at both the state and federal levels to reduce the number of unnecessary robocalls.”
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