Major phone companies have pledged to do more to fight robocalls plaguing Americans, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading a coalition of the country’s 51 attorneys general.
Thursday’s announcement is the latest step to combat the growing problem. Americans get nearly 5 billion automated calls from scammers, telemarketers, debt collectors and others every month. Parts of the agreement echo steps already taken by regulators and Congress, which is working on anti-robocall bills.
“Texans’ private phones are being taken over by constant calls, invading their privacy and all too often defrauding them of their hard-earned money,” said Paxton. “And now we look forward to working with voice service providers to squash scammers’ access to Texans. We won’t stop until the robocalls do.”
There’s no timeline, though, for the 12 major phone companies to fulfill the promises in the pact with attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Under the agreement, the companies will offer call-blocking tools for free to customers, with the exception of those who still use old copper landline phones (where it’s more difficult from a technical standpoint). Many of the major companies already offer this, although some charge for some or all of the services.
The companies will also block calls for everyone at the network level, landlines included.
The Federal Communications Commission has called on phone companies to block unwanted calls and expects carriers not to charge.
The agreement also asks the carriers to deploy a system that can label caller ID numbers as real. Scammers often use faked numbers to get people to pick up. The FCC already has asked for such a system, and companies have started rolling it out.
The state AGs also asks the companies to “dedicate sufficient resources” to quickly figure out where illegal robocalls are coming from when asked by law enforcement or by an existing industry group that is dedicated to tracing the origin of scam calls.
The telecom companies involved are AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon and Windstream. Not included are Altice and Cox, cable companies with millions of customers, as well as many small rural telecoms.