Illegal robocalls are a scourge of modern life. Americans got nearly 5 billion such calls last month alone — even though the Federal Trade Commission and its law enforcement partners mounted a crackdown in June and the Federal Communications Commission asserted in February that it had “really beefed up” enforcement efforts.
Against that backdrop, last week’s announcement of yet another crackdown might be viewed with skepticism. But it seems promising because it involves 12 of the nation’s largest telephone companies, including mobile giants AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
After negotiations with attorneys generals of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the companies have agreed to deploy a new system that would quickly identify which calls were spam using “spoofing,” in which robocall companies use phony phone numbers that look like local numbers to try to get people to pick up.
The companies also agreed to provide their customers with free anti-robocall tools and to take further steps to improve call-blocking technology. There is no deadline on when these promises will be met, but there’s an expectation that it will be as soon as possible because of public unhappiness with robocalls.
But still more can be done. A bill that was introduced by a bipartisan group of House members in June would expand the list of nuisance calls that are illegal and increase the penalties that regulators could assess. That measure can’t pass soon enough.