WASHINGTON – Regulators want to make it easier for consumers to stop unwanted robocalls and spam text messages, which have led to a flood of complaints to federal agencies.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed a series of rulings that would clarify rights for consumers under a 1991 law designed to protect their privacy and give phone companies the green light to offer call-blocking technologies.
The agency said the plan, which would close loopholes and strengthen consumer protections, would build off the 2003 Do Not Call Registry.
Under the proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, consumers would no longer have to go to great lengths to revoke consent to receive automatically generated calls or text messages, such as submitting a request in writing.
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Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent “in any reasonable way at any time,” including just telling the caller to stop.
The new rules would also prevent a consumer with a new phone number from being subjected to robocalls authorized by the number’s previous user. Telemarketers and others who use automatic dialing technology would have to stop calling after just one call if the number has been reassigned.
Unwanted calls and texts are the top consumer complaint to the FCC. The agency received 215,000 such complaints last year.
The Federal Trade Commission, which jointly runs the Do Not Call Registry with the FCC, said it receives more than 150,000 complaints about robocalls each month.
Wheeler circulated his proposal to the FCC’s other four commissioners on Wednesday and plans to have them vote on it at the agency’s June 18 meeting.
The new rules come in response to more than 20 petitions the FCC has received from companies such as banks and debt collection services seeking clarifications about the agency’s interpretation of the 1991 law, which was written before wireless calling became popular.