Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Twelve of the nation's largest telecommunications companies and attorneys general from all 50 states and D.C. announced an agreement Thursday to combat illegal robocalls.
The voluntary memorandum of understanding announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C. sets out eight principles to reduce the number of robocalls U.S. consumers receive through the companies committing to implement call-blocking technology while offering free anti-robocall tools and a new system that labels calls as advertisements.
The companies also agreed to aid law enforcement in their investigations.
Robocalls have been a nuisance to U.S. consumers who receive billions of calls a year. In July alone, American telephone users received 4.7 billion calls, equaling 1,700 robocalls a second, according to a robocall index.
While not all robocalls are illegal, Thursday's memorandum -- which was agreed to by AT&T, Charter Communications, Sprint and others -- seeks to curtail unsolicited robocalls while making it easier to identify where unsolicited robocalls are coming from.
"Robocalls calls are a scourge -- at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people of their hard-earned money," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who introduced the MOU. "By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call. They've also agreed to do more to help other state attorneys general and me track down the scammers and fraudsters responsible so that we can keep them from preying on people."
This state-level move follows the House in July passing the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act to stipulate that robocalls, which are phone calls or text messages sent to stored phone numbers by use of random number generators, can only be made with the receiver's consent.
"As we combat robocalls, it is going to take all of us working together," said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. "As the tech advances, quiet frankly, government can't do it alone. We must have our friends in the private industry."
Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said he welcomes the bipartisan agreement and is "pleased" that several companies have agreed to the principles, which align with those of the FCC.
"It comes as no surprise to me that these leaders are dedicated to battling this scourge," he said in a statement. "I thank them for their continued leadership and look forward to working together to help American consumers."