Los Angeles Times

A crackdown on robocalls

FCC orders phone companies not to carry calls about auto warranties, a major source of complaints.

- By Kelsey Butler and Todd Shields Butler and Shields write for Bloomberg.

The Federal Communicat­ions Commission has ordered phone companies to stop carrying robocall traffic related to scam auto warranties.

U.S. voice service providers must now “take all necessary steps to avoid carrying this robocall traffic,” or provide a report outlining how they’re mitigating the traffic, the FCC’s Robocall Response Team said in a statement Thursday.

The calls are generated by Roy Cox Jr., Aaron Michael Jones and related companies and associates, according to the FCC.

“Consumers are out of patience, and I’m right there with them,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworce­l said in the statement.

The group appears to be responsibl­e for making more than 8 billion unlawful prerecorde­d calls to Americans since at least 2018, according to the FCC. The operation is also the target of an investigat­ion by the FCC’s Enforcemen­t Bureau and a lawsuit by the Ohio attorney general.

Auto warranty renewal calls were the top robocall complaint filed with the FCC by consumers in 2021, with the number of such complaints rising to more than 12,000, compared with about 7,600 in 2020, the agency said.

The calls often include specific informatio­n about the car of the person receiving the call, which can make them seem more legitimate, according to the FCC.

Other top categories for robocalls were Social Security number phishing scams, credit and credit card scams, fake insurance and healthcare solicitati­ons, and alerts to phony lawsuits or criminal charges, the FCC said.

Americans received more than 4.3 billion robocalls in June, marking an 8.5% increase from May, according to YouMail Inc., a developer of software that blocks the calls. And, because May has one more day than June, robocalls were actually up 13.4% on a daily basis.

The FCC in recent years has told carriers to adopt a system to digitally validate phone calls passing through the complex web of networks that carry phone calls. The agency also has made it clear that providers may block calls.

And in May, the agency adopted new rules to stop illegal robocalls that originate outside the U.S. from entering American phone networks.

The new rules haven’t slowed the robocall scourge, however, YouMail said in a news release.

“The robocall volume in June 2022 was almost identical to that of June 2021” when a call authentica­tion rule went into effect, YouMail said in the July 7 release. “U.S. consumers have received 48.3 billion robocalls since the rule was initially rolled out one year ago.”

Such calls are a perennial top consumer complaint, the FCC says.

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