January 30, 2020

NAFCU to FCC: Stop service providers' aggressive call blocking

PhoneNAFCU reiterated concerns about the negative effects of current rules in place to combat illegal robocalls in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent yesterday in response to a notice and request for comment about the implementation and effectiveness of call blocking measures.

The FCC issued a Declaratory Order and Notice to allow call blocking in June 2019. Although the commission made positive changes to the ruling prior to passage that would allow redress for erroneously blocked calls – including implementation of the new caller identification framework known as STIR/SHAKEN – NAFCU recommends that the commission direct service providers not to block unsigned calls until the STIR/ SHAKEN framework has been fully implemented.

“NAFCU members have reported a drastic increase in the volume of calls being blocked by Service Providers,” wrote NAFCU Regulatory Affairs Counsel Mahlet Makonnen in the letter. “NAFCU is alarmed by this trend and, accordingly, recommends the FCC halt Service Providers’ aggressive call blocking efforts.”

Makonnen indicates that service providers have moved forward in blocking calls – using their own algorithms as well as the industry-led SHAKEN/STIR framework – and such hurried methods have resulted in “the blockage of hundreds and thousands of legitimate calls, leaving callers and called parties without an appropriate redress.

“NAFCU urges the FCC to ensure there is complete transparency and mitigation of blocking for both callers and called parties,” Makonnen continued.

NAFCU has continuously offered support of the FCC's goal to eliminate illegal automated calls and urges the commission to do so using a fully tested and effective STIR/SHAKEN framework. The association suggests that the framework be “designed to ensure that important and often time-sensitive calls that legitimate businesses, including credit unions, place to their customers are not blocked.

NAFCU has previously sought clarification from the FCC on whether consumer-benefitting calls could be blocked under the expanded call-blocking authority service providers now possess. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act is the first federal law designed to curb unwanted robocalls and was signed by President Trump in December. The TRACED Act instructed the FCC to establish rules on this issue and required the creation of an inter-agency working group.

NAFCU will continue to share its concerns about STIR/SHAKEN framework to ensure credit unions can contact their members without erroneous blocking of calls or fear of breaking the law.