FCC Orders Companies to Block Scam Texts

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finalized rules that require mobile carriers to block robotext messages that are likely to be illegal. This move is the FCC’s first regulation specifically addressing the issue of scam text messages sent to consumers. Under the new rules, carriers will be required to block text messages that come from “invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers,” as well as numbers that subscribers have self-identified as not sending text messages. The FCC also proposes to clarify that Do Not Call Registry protections apply to text messaging.

The FCC has sought public comment on the proposed rules since September 2022, and the order will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The rules will also require carriers to establish a point of contact for text senders so they can inquire about blocked texts. This is similar to the blocking of voice calls from these types of numbers, which the FCC already requires.

According to the FCC, complaints about robotexts rose from 3,300 to 18,900 per year between 2015 and 2022. Many of these robotexts promote links to phishing websites or websites that can install malware on a consumer’s phone. As such, more robotext rules may be on the way, and the FCC is seeking public comment on further proposals to require providers to block texts from entities the FCC has cited as illegal robotexters.

The FCC is also proposing to close the “lead generator loophole,” which allows companies to use a single consumer consent to deliver robocalls and text messages from multiple marketers. The FCC plans to take further public comment on text authentication measures and other proposals to fight illegal scam robotexts.

In a separate move, the FCC also voted to close a loophole in its Caller ID authentication rules that target illegal robocalls. The new rules will require intermediate providers that receive unauthenticated IP calls directly from domestic originating providers to use STIR/SHAKEN to authenticate those calls. This is intended to close a gap in the caller ID authentication regime and facilitate government and industry efforts to identify and block illegal robocalls.

Despite a 2-2 partisan deadlock, the robotext order was approved 4-0 by the FCC more than two years into President Joe Biden’s presidency. While the FCC still faces a partisan deadlock, the robotext rules were approved due to bipartisan support for addressing the issue of scam text messages.

Overall, the new rules demonstrate the FCC’s commitment to addressing the issue of scam text messages and illegal robocalls. By requiring carriers to block robotext messages that are likely to be illegal and establishing a point of contact for text senders, the FCC aims to reduce the number of fraudulent texts received by consumers. With more robotext rules on the way, the FCC hopes to continue to fight illegal scam robotexts and reduce the risk of consumers falling prey to phishing websites or malware installed on their phones.