The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday circulated a fact sheet on a proposal aimed at clarifying robocall regulations while coaxing wireless carriers to do more to prevent unwanted text messages and telemarketing calls.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s fact sheet addresses Telephone Consumer Protection Act language, including whether phone carriers can offer "robo-blocking" technology that could help people stop unwanted calls. The proposal was shared with other FCC commissioners by way of declaratory rulings, thus skirting a notice and public comment period that a formal rulemaking process requires. A vote is set for the FCC Open Meeting scheduled for June 18.

"We are giving the green light for robocall-blocking technology. The FCC wants to make it clear: Telephone companies can - and in fact should - offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post on the FCC website. The technology can be offered without violating any rules, he added.

Robocalls, spam text messages and telemarketing calls are the biggest source of consumer complaints at the FCC. The agency received more than 215,000 complaints last year.

Phone companies have expressed fears that automatic call-blocking might run afoul of laws requiring them to connect phone calls.

Another part of the plan would allow consumers to simply say “stop” to unwanted robocalls and texts and not be told they must fill out a form and mail it in to get them to cease.

Earlier this year, industry groups ACA International, DBA International and the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys were part of a coalition of dozens of national associations and business groups that sent a letter to the FCC requesting that the agency address petitions related to updating the TCPA.  The fact sheet circulated Wednesday appears to be short on details and any near-term impact on the collection industry is unclear.  At least one consumer group praised the plan. Consumers Union launched a national campaign against robocalls at Endrobocalls.org. More than 320,000 consumers signed a petition calling on the top phone carriers to offer their customers free, effective call-blocking tools.“This should clear the way for companies to offer the call-blocking tools that people want to stop robocalls from invading their homes morning, noon and night,” said Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union. "Millions of fed-up consumers could finally get some real relief.”

Timothy Marvin, grassroots organizer for Consumers Union, said, "The response to our campaign has been overwhelming because Americans are sick and tired of robocalls that invade their privacy and target them for fraud. Now its time for the phone companies to stop making excuses and provide their customers with the relief they want and deserve."  

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