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August 2019

Breaking: Major Telecoms and Attorneys General Partner to Fight Illegal Robocalls

On August 22, 2019, a bipartisan, public/private coalition of 51 State Attorneys General and 12 telephone companies agreed to adopt eight principles to combat illegal robocalls. The purpose of the agreement is to protect telephone users from illegal robocalls and assist the government to investigate and prosecute bad actors.

Under the agreement, the twelve service providers (see entities named below) declare that they will work with State Attorneys General by incorporating, or continuing to incorporate, the following eight anti-robocalling principles into their business practices:

  1. Offer Free Call Blocking and Labeling;
  2. Implement STIR/SHAKEN Call Authentication Technology;
  3. Analyze and Monitor Network Traffic;
  4. Investigate Suspicious Calls and Call Patterns;
  5. Confirm the Identity of Commercial Customers;
  6. Require Traceback Cooperation in Contracts;
  7. Cooperate in Traceback Investigations; and
  8. Communicate with State Attorneys General.

The principles address the scourge of illegal robocalls through prevention and enforcement.

According to North Carolina Attorney General Joshua H. Stein,1 the leader of the coalition, telephone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:

  • Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers;
  • Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools;
  • Implementing call authentication technology to ensure that callers are coming from a valid source; and
  • Monitoring their networks for robocalls.

AG Stein states that telephone companies will assist State Attorneys General in enforcing anti-robocalling by:

  • Knowing who their customers are to identify and investigate bad actors;
  • Investigating and taking action against suspicious calls, including notifying law enforcement and State Attorneys General;
  • Working with State Attorneys General and law enforcement to trace origins of illegal robocalls; and
  • Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in traceback identification.2

Notably, the agreement contains a “Disclaimer” that provides that “Failure to adhere to these principles is not in itself a basis for liability nor does adherence to these principles protect or release any party from liability. Compliance with these principles does not relieve any party from its duty to comply with state or federal laws and regulations. Adherence to these principles may take time for the voice service providers to plan for and implement.” The agreement also defines specific terms: Call Authentication; Call Blocking; Call Blocking Tools; Call Labeling; Network-Level Call Blocking; SHAKEN; STIR; SHIR-SHAKEN; Traceback, and VoIP.

The coalition of State Attorneys General, led by North Carolina Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, and Indiana Attorney General Curtis S. Hill, Jr., includes the Attorneys General from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

The coalition of telephone service providers includes: AT&T Services, Inc.; Bandwidth Inc.; CenturyLink; Charter Communications, Inc.; Comcast; Consolidated Communications, Inc.; Frontier Communications Corporation; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon; and Windstream Services, LLC.

This new private/public pact is significant in the ever evolving legal landscape that seeks to prevent and enforce the plague of illegal robocalls, especially in the wake of recent FCC rulings and approval of Senate and House Bills. Stay tuned!
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1 North Carolina Attorney General Press Release, Attorney General Josh Stein Leads 51 Attorneys General and 12 Companies in Fight to Stop Robocalls, available at https://www.ncdoj.gov/News-and-Alerts/News-Releases-and-Advisories/Attorney-General-Josh-Stein-Leads-51-Attorneys-Gen.aspx (last visited Aug. 22, 2019).
2 See id.

Consumer Protection Litigation

Thomas C. Blatchley



Consumer Protection Litigation