AT&T Introduces Free Auto Blocks on Fraud Robocalls

Last week US telco AT&T announced that new mobile customers would be subscribed to their anti-fraud robocall blocking service without needing to pay for it. Existing customers will also start receiving the service in coming months. The extension of this service follows a decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that allows telcos to block calls without waiting to be instructed to do so by customers.

The change was welcomed by Joan Marsh, Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs at AT&T Communications, who described the FCC as a “tremendous partner in the war on robocalls”.

The Commission’s recent action builds on a years-long effort to enable broader adoption of call-blocking tools and allow providers to better protect their customers and networks. AT&T remains committed to working with our government and industry partners in the ongoing battle against unwanted and illegal robocalls.

AT&T had already established paid-for services that identify likely fraudsters and spammers. These use analytics to evaluate the chances of the call originating from an undesirable source. Per AT&T’s figures, the services had already been used to block more than 4 billion unwanted robocalls.

Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica criticized AT&T’s policy for not going far enough. He observed that whilst customers will be enrolled in the AT&T service which blocks calls suspected of being fraudulent, spam calls would still be received by the customer.

…the service doesn’t automatically block all nuisance calls. Notice that the AT&T announcement promised “automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam-call alerts” but not automatic blocking of spam calls. Calls that AT&T categorizes as “fraud” won’t ring your phone, but calls categorized as “spam” will ring your phone despite coming with a warning.

AT&T customers have the option of paying USD4 for all suspected spam calls to be sent to voicemail automatically. They might otherwise make use of AT&T’s free personal blacklist service, by adding numbers to their blacklist each time they receive a new spam call. The FCC’s decision did not mandate telcos to provide blocking services for free, although one of the FCC’s Commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, dissented by stating customers should not be charged for robocall solutions.

You can read the whole of AT&T’s announcement here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.