FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed new rules to protect consumers from text messaging scams. The new rules would require mobile service providers to block certain robotext messages that are highly likely to be illegal. The rules are expected to be voted on at the FCC’s March Open Meeting.
“Missing packages that don’t exist; confirmation of payments that didn’t happen; links to shady websites; and truncated ‘wrong number’ messages from strangers. These scam robotexts are a part of everyday life for too many of us,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “I’m asking my colleagues to join me in adopting the first FCC rules to focus on shutting down scam texts. But we’re not stopping here. Because we are going to keep at it and develop more ways to take on this growing consumer threat.”
The proposed rules would require providers to block texts that purport to be from numbers on a Do-Not-Originate list. Providers will block texts that purport to be from numbers for which the actual subscriber has said it does not send legitimate text messages, including government agencies and other well-known entities. It also includes blocking of texts carrying invalid, unallocated, or unused numbers. These texts are highly likely to be illegal and no consumer would want to receive them. The rules would also require each mobile wireless provider to make public a single point of contact for text senders.
The item proposes to require providers to block texts from upstream providers that are known to be transmitting illegal robotexts, once notified by the FCC. The proposals would also extend Do-Not-Call Registry protections (prohibiting marketing texts to registered numbers) to text messaging and close the lead generator loophole, which allows companies to use a single consumer consent to deliver robocalls and text messages from multiple – perhaps thousands – of marketers on subjects that may not be what the consumer had in mind.
The new rules would mark a significant step in protecting consumers from text messaging scams, which have become increasingly common in recent years. Scam text messages can be used to steal personal information, install malware on a user’s device, or trick users into making fraudulent payments.
The proposed Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be on the agenda of the Commission’s next monthly meeting, on March 16, 2023. The text of the proposal will be available with the tentative agenda notice released tomorrow and available on the meeting’s webpage: https://www.fcc.gov/march-2023-open-commission-meeting.
The FCC’s proposal has been welcomed by consumer advocacy groups. “Scammers have been using text messages to target vulnerable consumers for too long,” said John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League. “These proposed rules would provide much-needed protection to consumers and help to shut down this growing threat.”
However, some industry groups have expressed concerns about the new rules. “We support the FCC’s efforts to combat illegal robocalls and scam text messages, but we also want to ensure that legitimate text messages are not inadvertently blocked,” said Scott Bergmann, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA. “We look forward to working with the FCC to ensure that any new rules strike the right balance between protecting consumers and preserving the ability of businesses to communicate with their customers.”
Overall, the FCC’s proposed rules are expected to receive broad support and could represent a major step forward in the fight against text messaging scams. If adopted, the rules could help to protect millions of consumers from the growing threat of scam text messages.