Collector - October 2020 - 44

GOVERNMENTAFFAIRS

Call Blocking and Labeling Advocacy Update
Recent FCC actions show the ARM industry's progress in the fight against erroneous call blocking.
By Leah Dempsey

A

s ACA International's long battle
against erroneous call blocking
and labeling forges on, we
continue to gain some momentum at the
Federal Communications Commission
on behalf of the accounts receivable
management (ARM) industry.
At the very beginning of the 116th
Congress, it became clear that both
Congress and the FCC were up in
arms about eradicating "robocalls."
Unfortunately, they were not always
making distinctions between illegal and
fraudulent actors making robocalls and
calls by legitimate businesses.
Over the past two years we have seen
many legislative drafts, FCC actions and
one sweeping bill that became law-the
Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal
Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED
Act)-aimed at robocalls. The press,
lawmakers, regulators and even John Oliver
all agreed that robocalls are bad and need to
be stopped.
There has been one overarching
problem in all these policymaking efforts:
the language has been overly broad and
impacts ACA members and thousands of
other legitimate businesses throughout the
country-including our coalition partners
in Washington, D.C. Along the way,
however, ACA has been able to educate
Congress and regulators about the need to
make changes to improve these efforts and
our advocacy is slowly but surely starting to
see some progress.
Here is a recap of some of the major
milestones and efforts surrounding this issue.

educate Congress about the need to include
several improvements in the final version of
the law, including:
*	 Removing the problematic definition
of "called party." The U.S. House of
Representatives bill defined the term
"called party" to mean the "current
subscriber or customary user of the
telephone number to which the call is
made." This was removed in the final bill.
*	 Removing broad language about
consent revocation. ACA urged
Congress to ensure that businesses
can designate certain channels
where consumers' revocations can be
efficiently and accurately processed.
*	 Improved language concerning call
blocking, in particular noting it should
be done with "transparency and
effective redress options" for consumers
and callers and with assurance there
will be no cost to callers for unblocking
legitimate calls. The language also
states that callers must be "provided
with no additional line item charge to
consumers and no additional charge to
callers for resolving complaints related
to erroneously blocked calls."
At the time, it was hard to explain to
ACA members why this language change
about transparency and redress benefited
them; it was an obscure victory to some.
But in working with the FCC over the last
several months, it has become clear that this
language is essential in limiting broad safe
harbors for carriers and has provided some
important protections for callers.

THE TRACED ACT

FCC DECLARATORY RULING AND
THIRD FNPRM

After nearly a year of negotiating, Congress
passed the TRACED Act at the end of 2019
and shortly thereafter President Donald
Trump signed it into law. ACA worked to

Last summer, a declaratory ruling
released by the FCC allowed voice
service providers to block illegal and
"unwanted" calls as the default before

44

reaching consumers' phones. The ruling,
which went into effect immediately,
requires providers to give consumers the
opportunity to opt-out of the call
blocking service.
While ACA was not happy with the ruling
or action, and it helped prove the negative
impact on the industry in our report with
Number Sentry, the ruling ultimately
contained some critical changes from the
draft version prior to ACA's advocacy. Most
notably, the addition of a paragraph in the
ruling directly addressed ACA's concerns
about seeking redress for erroneously
blocked calls. It states:
"While some parties have expressed
concern about blocking of calls required
for compliance with other laws, rules, or
policy considerations, we believe that a
reasonable call-blocking program instituted
by default would include a point of contact
for legitimate callers to report what they
believe to be erroneous blocking as well
as a mechanism for such complaints to
be resolved. Further, callers who believe
their calls have been unfairly blocked may
seek review of a call-blocking program
they believe to be unreasonable by filing
a petition for declaratory ruling with the
commission. We also encourage voice
service providers that block calls to develop
a mechanism for notifying callers that their
calls have been blocked."

ROBOCALL REPORT AND 2020
CALL BLOCKING ORDER
Fast forward to this past summer as the
FCC began implementing parts of the
TRACED Act and taking additional
actions concerning call blocking and
labeling, and we began to see the fruits of
our labor. The Robocall Report, which was
required by the FCC's 2019 Call Blocking
Declaratory Ruling, finally acknowledged

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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