A bipartisan, public/private coalition of 51 attorneys general and 12 phone companies have agreed to create the “Anti-Robocall Principles,” a set of eight principles to fight “illegal robocalls” that the phone companies have voluntarily agreed to adopt by incorporation, or continued incorporation into their business practices.  The principles are available here and press release is here.

Why it matters:  “Illegal and unwanted robocalls continue to harm and hassle people every day. Consumer fraud often originates with an illegal call, and robocalls regularly interrupt our daily lives.  Robocalls and telemarketing calls are the number one source of consumer complaints at many state Attorneys General offices, as well as at both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.  State Attorneys General are on the front lines of enforcing do-not-call laws and helping people who are scammed and harassed by these calls.” according to the principles.

The coalition of companies includes twelve major carriers.

The details:  The principles address illegal robocalls in two main ways:  prevention, and enforcement.

Phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:

  • Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers.
  • Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.
  • Implementing technology to authenticate that callers are coming from a valid source.
  • Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.

Phone companies will assist attorneys general anti-robocall enforcement by:

  • Knowing who their customers are so bad actors can be identified and investigated.
  • Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers – including notifying law enforcement and state attorneys general.
  • Working with law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to trace the origins of illegal robocalls.
  • Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in traceback identification.

How does this relate to SHAKEN/STIR?:  “STIR/SHAKEN” describes a set of technical standards and operating procedures for implementing call authentication for calls carried over an Internet Protocol network, which is incorporated by reference as part of the principles.

As described in the principles, the “STIR/SHAKEN framework will enable originating voice service providers to attest to the validity of asserted caller IDs and sign outbound calls with a secure signature or certificate that cannot be faked.  The terminating service provider will use the security certificate to validate that the caller ID attestation has not been compromised.”

“[T]he technology takes aim at a practice known as spoofing, where fraudsters mask their identities by using phone numbers that resemble those that they’re trying to contact in a bid to get victims to pick up and surrender their personal information,” according to Washington Post Reporter Tony Romm.

More information is available from an FCC summit on the topic here, and the FCC’s website information on caller ID authentication here.

Is there a deadline?:  No.  The principles are voluntary.

The FCC’s Perspective:  “These principles align with the FCC’s own anti-robocalling and spoofing efforts.  Earlier this month, the FCC adopted rules to apply anti-spoofing prohibitions to international robocalls, as called for by many of these same state attorneys general.  In addition, we continue to see progress toward adoption of caller ID authentication using SHAKEN/STIR standards.  And our call blocking work has cleared the way for blocking unwanted robocalls by default and of likely scam calls using non-existent phone numbers.  The FCC is committed to working together with Congress, state leaders, and our federal partners to put an end to unwanted robocalls.”  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Statement on State Attorneys General and Voice Service Providers’ Anti-Robocall Principles.

What’s next?:  Legislative proposals are pending in the House and Senate to adopt an anti-robocall law that mandate call authentication technologies and enhance enforcement authority of federal agencies and the states.  And, the FCC has enacted changes in rules that allow carriers to enroll consumers in call blocking technology, and will remain active in anti-illegal robocalling initiatives, including enforcement.

Bottom line:  The principles may be voluntary and far reaching, but some carriers have not signed-on.  Now attention for many will turn to how the principles and their implementation may impact legal calls to consumers placed by legitimate businesses.