Big phone firms, 51 attorneys general launch anti-robocall initiative

Robocalls annoy just about anybody with a phone, and now telecom companies and state officials have jointly launched an initiative to stop the illegal and frustrating calls.

Fifty-one attorneys general, along with several large players in the industry, have reached an agreement promising to work to prevent robocalls, The Wall Street Journal reported. The cellphone carriers said they would work with state authorities investigating the calls’ origins, and provide customers with call-blocking technology for free.

The agreement is voluntary with no deadline, the Journal reported. But officials are aiming for it to help them track down the callers and any companies that help them.

Companies in on the deal include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, CenturyLink and seven others, according to the report. Smaller carriers haven’t signed on yet, but the larger companies pledged to require cooperation when they contract with them.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein reportedly helped to broker the deal.

“Robocalls are a scourge — at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” he told the Journal. “By signing on to these principles, industry leaders are taking new steps to keep your phone from ringing with an unwanted call.”

Some of those bigger companies have already committed to expanding their anti-robocall measures available to customers, including AT&T and Verizon.

But the agreement could be limited by the fact that it doesn’t include small Internet-based carriers, the Journal reported. Some of those businesses are reportedly the source of a noteworthy amount of robocall traffic.

The Federal Communications Commission recently set new rules designed to empower phone carriers to block robocalls by default. The FCC is also banning “spoofing” that allows callers to make it appear that they’re calling from a different number than they really are, and Chairman Ajit Pai has pledged to take “aggressive enforcement action against robocallers.”