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Today, the Federal Communications Commission published a draft Order in the “Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls” proceeding. On June 6, the agency will vote on a Declaratory Ruling and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from this proceeding to enable carriers to block robocalls. As currently written, the FCC’s draft Order could culminate in carriers charging consumers for call-blocking services that may or may not work as intended, whether consumers want the service or not.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge:
“The big question here is who pays for this, and how much? This is particularly important on an opt-out plan, given that the Commission has given the carriers enormous discretion in how to contact customers and the general difficulties customers have in figuring out their bills. Given that customers will also have no idea how effective this will be, there need to be some safeguards here.
“For example, let's say a carrier charges $10 a month for the new service. The subscriber has no way to know how good the service is and so can't make any determination about whether it's worth it. Indeed, if the service works poorly, it may end up blocking calls the subscriber wants and letting robocalls through. But whatever happens, the subscriber is automatically on the hook for $10 per month until they find out they are even enrolled in this new program.
“At a minimum, carriers that use opt-out should be required to offer the service free for some trial period. Even better would be a free trial period followed by a need to opt-in for a paid service. This is a common business model for apps and subscription services, so consumers are quite used to it by now. This would also give the carrier incentive to make a real effort to contact the consumer, rather than hide the ball as a line charge somewhere on the bill.”