State AGs Back Mandatory Blocking Of Suspicious Robotexts

The Federal Communications Commission should require mobile carriers to automatically block text messages from numbers likely to be associated with spam, attorneys general from 50 states and the District of Columbia urge in a new filing with the agency.

The attorneys general say they are increasingly receiving complaints about illegal or unwanted text messages, and that mandatory blocking represents “a common-sense measure to protect consumers from scams perpetrated through illegal text messages.”

Their comments come in response to the FCC's requests for input about a proposal to require carriers to automatically block test messages from invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers, as well as from numbers on a “do not originate” list, which contains phone numbers linked to fraud.

“We agree with the Commission that bad actors have most likely shifted tactics to take advantage of consumers’ most favored method of communication--text messaging,” the attorneys general write.

A coalition of advocacy groups led by the National Consumer Law Center and Electronic Privacy Information Center also supports the FCC's proposal.

“The steady escalation of complaints about unwanted texts, as well as mounting losses to consumers from scam texts, necessitate that more be done to protect consumers,” those groups wrote in comments filed Friday.

They argue that in addition to mandating blocking of suspicious messages, the FCC should also consider imposing fines on providers who “knew or should have known” they were transmitting “scam traffic.”

The major wireless carriers oppose the blocking proposal, arguing that new regulation is not necessary to combat robotexts.

“No one-size-fits-all approach to protecting consumers could possibly be calibrated to achieve the optimal consumer protection experience,” Verizon wrote in comments filed last month with the FCC.

The company, which said it already uses tools to combat spam, argues that the blocking proposal would present “costs and compliance challenges” while failing to benefit consumers.

“Verizon is not aware of any database of 'unused' telephone numbers that could be used to block texts on a real-time basis, so presumably such a database would need to be built,” the company wrote.

AT&T and T-Mobile likewise urged the FCC to avoid regulations.

“AT&T encourages the Commission to refrain from adopting blocking mandates and similarly prescriptive and ineffective measures in the messaging space, in favor of preserving continued flexibility that has been, and continues to be, overwhelmingly successful in protecting the SMS/MMS platforms as a preferred means of communication for consumers and businesses, alike,” the wireless carrier wrote.

Next story loading loading..