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More than 30 corporate U.S. giants join FCC project to end 'robocalls'

"Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop," strike force head Randall Stephenson said Friday.

By
Doug G. Ware
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday held its first meeting with 33 American companies as part of a new initiative to put an end to obnoxious robocalls that attempt to sell to or scam consumers with unwanted phone calls and text messages. File Photo by ProKasia/Shutterstock
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday held its first meeting with 33 American companies as part of a new initiative to put an end to obnoxious "robocalls" that attempt to sell to or scam consumers with unwanted phone calls and text messages. File Photo by ProKasia/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Nearly three dozen U.S. corporate giants are taking part in a federally-supported initiative that's aimed at pulling the plug on obnoxious automated phone call sales and scam pitches.

The 33-company coalition, which includes Google, AT&T and Apple, attended a meeting Friday with the Federal Communications Commission to discuss a "Robocall Strike Force" they hope will eliminate unwanted calls from scammers and marketers.

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The project's objective is to prevent, detect and filter such calls, the FCC said. More than 30 companies, to be headed by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, are part of the effort.

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Among other things, officials say they are working to develop Caller ID verification standards so third parties won't be able to use clever tricks to hide their phone number or shield their intentions.

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"The Commission is committed to protecting consumers from unwanted calls and giving them more control over the calls and texts they receive," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said last month. "We will tackle robocalls on as many fronts as possible ... to step up and stop this scourge."

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"The fact that we are all here speaks to the breadth and complexity of the robocall problem," Stephenson told the meeting Friday. "Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop. And technology such as spoofing makes it easier for them to work around our various fixes and hide their tracks."

As part of the effort, Wheeler has called on all U.S. wireless carriers to offer call-blocking services to customers at no cost.

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"Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," he said.

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Since 2013, regulators have brought more than a dozen enforcement actions against robocallers, and last year fined a Florida company $3 million for participating.

Stephenson said the strike force has agreed to act on several proposals the FCC has submitted -- including improving caller ID verification standards, evaluating the feasibility of a "Do Not Originate" list, developing detection methods, and driving efforts to adopt call-blocking technologies across wireless networks.

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In addition to Google, Apple and AT&T, many other well-known and established companies have also agreed to be part of the strike force -- including Blackberry, CenturyLink, Comcast, LG, Microsoft, Samsung, T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon.

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