TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that New Jersey has entered into a new multistate agreement with 12 phone service providers, securing their commitment to work cooperatively with states to thwart illegal robocalls.
Under the agreement signed by 51 Attorneys General and the 12 participating phone companies, service providers – including AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – have agreed to adopt eight “Anti-Robocall Principles” for combating illegal robocalls.
Among those principles, the phone companies have agreed to offer their customers free call blocking, investigate suspicious calls and calling patterns, monitor their networks for robocall traffic, and cooperate with law enforcement “traceback” investigations that seek to track the origins of illegal robocalls.
The companies have also agreed to implement a set of technical standards and operating procedures for call authentication known as STIR/SHAKEN.
The agreement announced today is the product of a bipartisan, public/private coalition of Attorneys General and telecommunications companies that collaboratively explored the robocall issue and potential solutions.
The agreement will help protect phone users in New Jersey and across the country from illegal robocalls, and make it easier for Attorneys General to investigate and prosecute bad actors.
“Robocalls are not only a nuisance, they can facilitate scams and other illegal conduct,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Robocall technology is ever-changing, and so is anti-robocall technology. That’s why it is so important that the telecom industry collaborates with law enforcement to keep pace with the latest technological changes.”
The anti-robocall principles that form the bedrock of today’s agreement address the problem in two main ways: prevention and enforcement.
Phone companies will work to prevent illegal robocalls by:
- Implementing call-blocking technology at the network level at no cost to customers.
- Making available to customers additional, free, easy-to-use call blocking and labeling tools.
- Implementing technology to authenticate that callers are coming from a valid source.
- Monitoring their networks for robocall traffic.
Phone companies will assist anti-robocall enforcement efforts by:
- Knowing who their customers are, so bad actors can be identified and investigated.
- Investigating and taking action against suspicious callers – including notifying law enforcement and state attorneys general.
- Working with law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to trace the origins of illegal robocalls.
- Requiring telephone companies with which they contract to cooperate in traceback identification.
Going forward, phone companies will stay in close communication with the coalition of Attorneys General to continue to optimize robocall protections as technology and scammer techniques change.
“The principles offer a comprehensive set of best practices that recognizes that no single action or technology is sufficient to curb the scourge of illegal and unwanted robocalls,” said Henning Schulzrinne, Levi Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Columbia University. “I hope that all parts of the telecommunication industry, both large and small, will commit to rapidly implementing these principles and work with state and federal authorities to make people want to answer their phone again without fear of being defrauded or annoyed."
The coalition of Attorneys General from all 50 states and the District of Columbia was led by North Carolina, New Hampshire and Indiana. The participating phone companies include: AT&T, Bandwidth, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Consolidated, Frontier, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream.
Other recent efforts and initiatives by Attorney General Grewal to combat robocalls have included:
- In March of this year, Attorney General Grewal joined a coalition of Attorneys General in supporting passage of federal legislation to combat illegal robocalling and “neighbor spoofing.” Both houses of Congress have passed bills to address the issue.
- In May 2019, Attorney General Grewal joined 41 other Attorneys General in supporting new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to combat called ID spoofing activities originating outside the United States to recipients within the United States, as well as caller ID spoofing using alternative voice and text messaging services.
- In October 2018, Attorney General Grewal called on the FCC to adopt new rules to allow telephone service providers to block more illegal robocalls being made to unsuspecting residents in New Jersey and across the country. Attorney General Grewal joined a bipartisan coalition of 34 Attorneys General in formal comments to the FCC, explaining that scammers using illegal robocalls have found ways to evade a call-blocking order previously issued by the FCC.
The Division of Consumer Affairs offers consumer information about New Jersey’s Do Not Call Law, as well as tips on robocalling and telemarketing scams and how to avoid them. For more information, or to file a complaint about robocalls or scams, please visit www.njconsumeraffairs.gov.