CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday joined 38 other states and territories in a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to allow phone companies to utilize call-blocking technologies that would better protect consumers from unwanted calls and scams.
Call-blocking technologies, such as NoMoRobo, Call Control and Telemarketing Guard, have been developed to enable phone carriers to identify and block unwelcome sales calls at their customers’ request. However, some phone carriers have not implemented this technology, in part because of the belief that federal law prevents carriers from blocking calls on their consumers’ behalf.
“It seems that every week we hear of a new telephone scam that is making its way through West Virginia, and consumers of our state seem to be barraged with calls from scammers,” Morrisey said in a statement. “While we do everything we can to educate consumers and fight back against these scammers, phone carriers also should be empowered to do what they can to block these calls from the start.”
Morrisey is part of a bipartisan group of attorneys general from 39 states and territories who submitted official comments to the FCC.
“The FCC should clarify what telephone companies can do legally to help protect consumers,” Morrisey said. “Since many scams originate overseas, it may be hard to track down the person or persons responsible. By clarifying what steps a telephone company may take to block calls from a known number, the FCC may be able to resolve questions previously raised by telecommunication providers.”
Phone carriers have expressed concern that the FCC’s legal framework prohibits phone companies from determining which calls should be allowed to go through to a customer and which should be blocked. Last year, in explaining the obstacles that phone carriers face in implementing call-blocking technologies, US Telecom wrote to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance that “the FCC has concluded that call blocking is an unjust and unreasonable practice under section 201(b) of the Communications Act of 1934.”
In his letter to the FCC, Morrisey asks for a formal opinion on whether an exception can be made to allow companies to block illegal telemarketing calls at the request of a consumer.
Since June, the Office’s Consumer Protection Division has received more than 300 complaints about telephone scams and more than 250 additional complaints about spoofing, where the number showing on Caller ID is the consumer’s home number.
Morrisey reminded consumers to add their personal home and cell phone numbers to the national Do Not Call registry, which helps to deter unwanted and fraudulent calls and text messages, by visiting donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Consumers who are registered on the Do Not Call list and receive an unwanted call can file a complaint by visiting www.ago.wv.gov.
States and territories that signed the letter to the FCC are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.