Major wireless carriers, state AGs unify in pledge to fight robocalls

robocalls woman talking on phone
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all signed onto the agreement to fight robocalls. (Pixabay)

A group of 12 major telecom companies have signed a pledge with attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to adopt principles aimed at combatting robocalls.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all signed onto the agreement, which was spearheaded by North Carolina state AG Josh Stein. While the pledge shows industry unity against robocalls, it does not contain a set timeline for implementation.

Still, as the carriers compete fiercely on the wireless-front, it seems the scourge of robocalls is something they can collectively get behind fighting. Consumers across the country are plagued by illegal and unwanted robocalls daily. In July alone, Americans were affronted with 4.7 billion robocalls, according to the YouMail Robocall Index.  

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“It’s imperative that we stand together on a common set of goals that include stopping callers from hiding their identities, working with other carriers on efforts to trace back illegal calls to the source, and keeping the originators from sending robocalls in the first place,” said Kathy Grillo, Verizon SVP of public policy and government affairs, in a statement.

According to a release from Stein’s office, the phone companies will implement free, network-level call-blocking technology and authentication to ensure calls aren’t spoofed. This includes STIR/SHAKEN call authentication, which the Federal Communications Commission previously called on carriers to implement by year-end. The signing companies pledged to monitor networks for robocall traffic and make additional easy-to-use call blocking and labelling tools available to customers at no cost.

“Robocalls are a scourge – at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” said Stein in a statement. “By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call. They’ve also agreed to do more to help other state attorneys general and me track down the scammers and fraudsters responsible so that we can keep them from preying on people.”

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To assist AGs with anti-robocall enforcement, the companies will investigate and take action against suspicious callers, including notifying authorities, and help them trace the origins of illegal robocalls. The participating companies also promise to require other telephone companies they have contracts with to cooperate in traceback identification.

In addition to the four major wireless carriers, other companies signing the pledge include Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter Communications, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Frontier, U.S. Cellular, and Windstream.

This pledge is the latest effort to fight illegal and unwanted calls, with Congress working on its own anti-robocall legislation. Last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which will result in harsher penalties for scammers making illegal, unwanted robocalls.

RELATED: FCC’s Pai looks to extend spoofed robocall rules to text messages, international calls

In early June the FCC authorized telcos to identify and block robocalls automatically, without the need for customers to opt-in.

 AT&T in July started blocking robocalls by default. The operator said new AT&T Mobility consumer lines will come with the anti-robocall service and it would be automatically added to existing AT&T customers’ accounts over the coming months.

Just last week T-Mobile and AT&T announced the competitors were working together and delivering STIR/SHAKEN caller verification technology that works across both their networks. Both T-Mobile and AT&T previously announced agreements for cross-network authentication work with Comcast.

RELATED: T-Mobile and AT&T work together to fight robocalls across their networks

T-Mobile applauded the pledge announced today, saying it fully supports the principles. The operator also said it was the first to deliver STIR/SHAKEN on its network in January and pointed to its free Scam Block service. That service launched in March 2017 and has alerted customers about 1 billion likely scam calls per month, according to T-Mobile.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also praised the bipartisan effort to encourage best practices for fighting robocalls and spoofing.

“Few things can bring together policy leaders across the political spectrum like the fight against unwanted robocalls,” Pai said in a statement. ““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.”