Consumer News

AG Derek Schmidt urges telecom providers to boost tech capabilities for anti-robocall enforcement

Release Date: May 04, 2020

TOPEKA – (May 4, 2020) – Major telecommunications providers should bolster technological capabilities to help law enforcement curb illegal robocallers, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

Schmidt, along with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general of 48 other states, American Samoa, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, today sent a letter to USTelecom – the leading organization representing telecommunications providers – and its Industry Traceback Group (ITG). The attorneys general ask providers to further develop robocall traceback and other tools suited to law enforcement needs, including developing and rolling out an online platform to collect live data from carriers and robocall-blocking apps.

“Technology has enabled the explosion in unwanted robocalls in recent years, and curbing this curb also will require significant use of technology,” Schmidt said. “Making better real-time data available to law enforcement will improve our ability to find illegal robocallers, and finding them is the key to effective enforcement of existing laws.”

The platform would allow law enforcement agencies to promptly submit a subpoena to USTelecom in a streamlined online portal in a situation where a provider or a law enforcement agency detects an illegal robocall campaign. The process would allow for rapid review by USTelecom and provide law enforcement agencies the ability to expedite subpoena procedures and access the platform to quickly retrieve relevant data. The platform would bolster law enforcement investigations and could potentially lead to attorneys general offices issuing temporary restraining orders that could stop a live robocall campaign in its tracks.

The coalition’s letter follows a January meeting in Washington, D.C., with representatives from state attorneys general offices, federal agencies and the telecom industry. Some priorities developed at that meeting include:

  • Automating and increasing the total volume of traceback investigations;
  • Alerting relevant law enforcement agencies of suspected illegal robocall campaigns;
  • Enabling law enforcement agencies to electronically upload and receive responses to subpoenas and civil investigative demands, and providing swift response to those requests; and
  • Identifying noncooperative Voice Service Providers, including those that don’t participate in the traceback process, repeatedly originate or accept illegal robocalls, or repeatedly fail to provide sufficient records.

The coalition believes these measures would strengthen the partnership between the USTelecom-backed ITG and attorneys general, a relationship that led to the creation of the Anti-Robocall Principles. Those principles were established in August 2019 when 51 attorneys general and 12 major telecom providers took aim at reducing the number of unwanted and illegal robocalls reaching the American people. In January, President Donald Trump signed into law the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, legislation to curb illegal robocalls and caller-ID spoofing. Many of its provisions codify the Principles in federal law.

The more than 58.5 billion robocalls made in 2019 made them the number one source of consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in consumer losses.

The attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division works to enforce do-not-call laws and protect Kansas consumers from being harassed and scammed by robocalls. Kansans who may have been scammed by a robocall may contact the Consumer Protection Division at (800) 432-2310 or at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.

A copy of today’s letter is available at https://bit.ly/2W5A1M1.  

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