Verizon, AT&T knock T-Mobile’s robocall claims

robocall
The FCC voted Thursday to adopt rules to further encourage phone companies to block illegal and unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers. (Getty Images)

That didn’t take long. Soon after T-Mobile said it was throwing down the challenge to Verizon, AT&T and other carriers to step up their anti-robocalling games, Verizon and AT&T noted their own leadership in the fight.

Verizon issued a statement last month, updated on Thursday, saying it’s actually the one that’s leading the industry in robocall protections, while AT&T said, more or less: “Welcome to the party.”

T-Mobile made a point of explaining how its protections are network-based, rather than just an app on a device, and it’s device agnostic. It also uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze several aspects of the call data to detect calls that are likely fraudulent.

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AT&T said it’s leading, too. “It’s nice to see other carriers working to catch up. We started our first network-based analytics and blocking program in 2016.  We’ve automatically added AT&T Call Protect – also network-based – to millions of lines for no extra cost. No app needed, and you can get even more no-cost features if you download the AT&T Call Protect app,” AT&T said in a statement.

Verizon chronicled its expertise, saying it’s protecting more than 75 million consumer, business and prepaid wireless lines with Call Filter, which helps curb unwanted robocalls made to consumers. For the past eight months, the industry has experienced a drop in monthly spam calls, according to Transaction Network Services, Verizon’s robocall analytics partner.

“Verizon’s ongoing efforts coupled with the global pandemic have disrupted robocallers, causing more than a 30% decline in unwanted calls over the last three months, and eight consecutive months of decline,” the company said via a press release.

Verizon’s systems recently identified that illegal robocallers are changing their approach, using coronavirus as a lure when impersonating healthcare providers, government entities and credit card companies. Customers can block or avoid many of these calls at no cost thanks to a free Call Filter app.

It is, however, charging $2.99 a month for postpaid customers who want to upgrade to its Call Filter Plus service, which offers additional features like Caller Name ID, Spam Look Up, Personal Block List and Spam Risk Meter.

T-Mobile pointed out during its announcement Thursday that it’s offering a range of solutions for free, and slammed Verizon in particular for making “billions” of dollars off caller ID.

RELATED: T-Mobile throws down challenge to rivals on robocall efforts

About the same time T-Mobile was making its announcement via a webcast Thursday, the FCC voted to adopt rules to further encourage phone companies to block illegal and unwanted robocalls before they reach consumers.

The rules offer companies two safe harbors from liability for the unintended or inadvertent blocking of wanted calls, thereby eliminating a concern that kept some companies from implementing robust robocall blocking efforts. An example of a legitimate robocall is a pharmacy reminding a customer about a prescription.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said it’s the third order in as many years from the FCC when it comes to the blocking of robocalls and its fourth rulemaking on the subject. Yet robocalls keep coming.

She also reiterated her support for these types of solutions to be offered free to consumers, noting that “consumers aren’t responsible for putting this junk on the line so they shouldn’t have to pay to get rid of it.”

As for STIR/SHAKEN, Verizon said it’s made significant progress deploying the technology that helps verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on the Caller ID and not spoofed. Verizon said it's currently verifying billions of calls every month within its network and has sent 3 billion STIR/SHAKEN calls to other carriers.

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