FCC Permits Blocking of Calls from Invalid or Unassigned Phone Numbers

The Federal Communications Commission today adopted an order that authorizes companies that provide telephone service to block certain categories of calls that are highly likely to be unlawful “spoofed” calls — that is, calls in which the caller ID displays a phone number different from that of the telephone from which the call was placed, done with the intent to defraud or otherwise cause harm.

The order permits, but does not require, voice service providers to block calls from phone numbers that are invalid or that the provider can verify have not been assigned to a specific user. The order also codifies an earlier FCC clarification that providers may block calls when they receive a request from a person or company whose number is being illegally spoofed by another party making outbound calls.

Importantly — and as the American Bankers Association had urged in its comment letter — the order does not extend call-blocking authority to additional categories of calls. This could have increased the risk that legitimate calls from banks — for example, servicing and debt collection calls — would be blocked.

The order also encourages providers to establish a simple method to permit entities whose outbound calls are erroneously blocked to challenge the blocking and to quickly resolve erroneous blocking so subscribers making legitimate calls may resume doing so speedily. For more information, contact ABA’s Jonathan Thessin.