In the context: Robotic calls are at best a nuisance and at worst a threat to personal information and financial security. While telcos have made efforts to reduce automated and fraudulent telemarketing calls, they are still a significant problem due to the lack of enforcement against entities outside of US jurisdiction.

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To remedy the situation, a consortium of U.S. Attorneys General has formed a task force to introduce existing laws to ban robocalls and telemarketing, as well as regulations more teeth. They propose to go into what they call “gateway providers”. These are telcos that allow or permit this type of traffic on their networks, usually because they profit from it.

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North Carolina AG Josh Stein, Indiana Todd Rokita and Ohio AG Dave Yost lead the newly formed Robocall Litigation Task Force. The group includes AGs from all 50 states. It aims to crack down on robocalls by suing gateway providers in the US, which in theory would be more effective than trying to sue foreign shell companies that are the source of the calls.

“I led efforts by state attorneys general to work with the federal government and telephone companies to combat robocalls,” Stein said in a press release announcing the creation of the task force. “But we’re also going to take action against phone companies that violate state and federal laws.”

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Stein notes that he filed one lawsuit against a gateway supplier from outside his state of North Carolina called Articul8. The company allegedly redirected more than 65 million robocalls to phone numbers in his home state alone, resulting in 50 to 200 calls a day for North Carolina residents.

AG also cites research showing that of all automated calls made to US residents, more than 33 million are scams, including social security scams targeting the elderly, fake Amazon reps, and other scam calls. Analysts estimate that scams have stolen nearly $30 billion from US residents in 2021, much of it from offshore companies.

As long as US ISPs can profit from shady telemarketers and scammers outside of the States, they will. Thus, the task force aims to hit these providers in their wallets to dissuade them from allowing these annoying and threatening calls.

Will their efforts be enough to stop all automatic calls? Of course not. Some robocalls are legal. For example, calls from your child’s school or school district informing you of events, closures, and other school-related information are legal under all applicable laws. Targets are only those who are trying to steal from people, which is still a gray area under the law.

For example, are companies trying to sell you an extended warranty against your car fraud or legitimate business calls? It could go either way. As long as the company actually sells what it says, and isn’t just phishing or taking your money without providing anything, regulators consider it legal, even if it can be as annoying as scam calls.

Anything that aims to reduce the amount of robocalls that everyone gets on a daily basis should be welcomed. Of course, time will tell how effective the Robot Litigation Task Force is.

Image credit: Karen Roach