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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue an opinion on whether phone companies can legally implement call-blocking technologies to protect phone customers from “robocalls,” the maddening automated calls pushing scams and proposals of every sort imaginable.

Call-blocking technologies, such as NoMoRobo, Call Control and Telemarketing Guard, allow phone carriers to identify and block unwelcome sales calls at a customer’s request. However, some phone carriers have not implemented this technology in part due to a federal law that they believe prevents them from blocking calls on a customer’s behalf.

Despite coordinated efforts by Madigan’s office, other state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Madigan says Illinois residents continue to report robocalls to their homes, even when residents have placed their numbers on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” registry. The calls frequently originate from scammers in foreign countries, using technology to hide their location and identity, which makes enforcement efforts difficult.

Carriers quake

Phone carriers have expressed concern that the FCC’s legal framework prohibits them 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 a letter to the FCC today, Madigan and 38 other attorneys general sought a formal opinion from the FCC on whether an exception can be made to allow companies to block illegal telemarketing calls at the request of a customer.

“Robocalls are a growing problem in Illinois and across the country,” Madigan said. “It is imperative that we use every tool available to put a stop to these annoying and unwanted calls.”

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