By: Meghan Stoppel
On July 12 and 13, the National Association of Attorneys General hosted the 2022 Robocall Summit in Detroit, Michigan. The event brought together representatives from almost 40 state AG offices, attorneys from the FTC, FCC and U.S. DOJ, and representatives from the private sector in person for the first time since 2019 to discuss ways to reduce robocalls and restore consumer confidence.
The government attendees spent the first day of the summit behind closed doors discussing their work and hearing from industry participants on their efforts to identify and reduce illegal robocalls. The second day of the summit, which was open to the public, kicked off with a panel of AG office representatives from Ohio, Indiana and Vermont, with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel leading the panel discussion. The panelists discussed the volume of robocalls received by residents of their respective states each month, the importance of educating consumers on this topic, and recently enacted and pending state legislation giving AGs more authority in this area. As one panelist noted, while AGs may advise consumers to exercise caution when answering their phones, this can backfire and, in fact, had very real implications for public health officials’ efforts to perform contact tracing during the pandemic. Therefore, the goal for law enforcement, in coordination with industry, is to restore consumers’ confidence in their telephones and caller ID. Several panelists also noted the need to amend, and in some cases expand, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. When asked to identify the most useful tool at their disposal, the AG representatives without exception identified their partnerships with their federal counterparts, other state AGs, industry participants and even the Industry Traceback Group (ITG).
The AG panel was followed by a presentation from the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). NCLC presented its June 2022 report on fraudulent robocalls and recommendations for reducing these calls. Those recommendations include, among other things, making the traceback process more transparent, implementing bond requirements for VoIP providers at the federal level, and making it more expensive, and therefore less profitable, for gateway providers to carry these calls. While acknowledging that the ITG’s efforts have been critical in this space for both regulators and for putting problematic providers on notice, NCLC called upon the FCC to be more aggressive in adding or removing carriers from the Robocall Mitigation Database. For now, NCLC noted that “70% of Americans don’t answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize,” perhaps in a nod to advice they are receiving from regulators and consumer advocates.
The summit also included separate panels comprised of representatives from the telecommunications industry and the FTC, FCC and DOJ discussing their efforts to combat illegal robocalls and the importance of collaboration with state AGs. The industry representatives provided an overview of STIR/SHAKEN, a caller ID authentication framework, describing how industry uses this framework to block and label millions of calls every day. Industry representatives specifically noted that consistent implementation of the framework is critical to its success, and that AG partnerships are likely necessary to “clean up abuses in this space.”
The most important take away from the summit, though, is that state AGs have more tools at their disposal than ever before to combat illegal robocalls. Companies operating in this industry, therefore, should expect to see continued cross-agency collaboration and increasing requests from the AGs for assistance to identify potential bad actors.