Robocalls, once an occasional annoyance, have grown into an overwhelming problem for phone owners. Between January 2016 and June 2018, the number of robocalls Americans received doubled from 2 billion to 4 billion. Reports related to spam calls are the most common complaints filed to the FCC. Now, Popular Science reports that the government agency is finally taking action to reduce unwanted spam calls.
On Thursday, June 6, the FCC unanimously voted to give phone carriers more freedom to block robocalls. Previously, laws allowed companies like Verizon and AT&T to block certain calls—like automated calls, for example—but only after the customers who would be affected opted in. Under the new rule, carriers can block all robocalls without letting subscribers know or asking for their permission first.
For anyone who dreams of being able to answer a call from an unknown number without the fear of being scammed, the change may sound like a good thing. But there is a drawback: Legitimate calls that use automated dialing—like appointment reminders from doctors' offices, for example—may be an unintended casualty of the robocall purge. The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management is asking the FCC to add a provision to the rule that ensures medical calls won't be affected.
Exactly how many phone users will be impacted by the change is unclear. Phone carriers can now block more robocalls easily, but they're not obligated to by law. And if providers do want to take advantage of the rule, they may take their time developing new call-blocking features.
Instead of waiting for your phone company to fix the issue, you can take steps to reduce the flow of robocalls you receive today. Several apps, including Nomorobo and RoboKiller, automatically ignores calls that match numbers in its scam caller database. You can also see if your carrier offers robocall-reducing apps for free or for a few extra dollars a month.
[h/t Popular Science]