FCC Committee Approves Broader Adoption of Best Practices to Block Unwanted Texts

The committee wants wider use of opt-out from certain text messages.

FCC Committee Approves Broader Adoption of Best Practices to Block Unwanted Texts
Screenshot of John Breyault, vice president at the National Consumers League, at Tuesday’s Consumer Advisory meeting.

WASHINGTON, September 1, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a working group’s report that urges the agency to push for wider implementation of industry best practices for blocking illegal and unwanted text messages.

The report recommends wider adoption for short message service and multimedia message service texts of existing industry best practices, such as those articulated in 2019 by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association. CTIA’s guidelines direct dispensers of “non-consumer messaging” – e.g., businesses – to gain the individual’s consent with opt-in mechanisms, ensure the individual’s ability to opt out of messages, and implement “physical, administrative, and technical security controls” to protect databases containing sensitive information such as phone numbers.

The report identifies a dramatic spike in spam texts in recent years. In 2021, consumers lodged to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission three times as many complaints about bogus messages than in 2019. According to a recent Truecaller report, the monthly average of spam texts per user in 2022 is 19.5, up from 10.6 in 2019 and 6.3 in 2015.

The skyrocketing rate of spam texts is especially concerning because texting is a highly popular and trusted means of communication, the report says. According to the working group’s findings, Americans not only prefer texting over email and audio calling, but they are far more likely to open and respond to texts. The report estimates that “open rates” for texts could reach ninety-eight percent and “response rates” could reach forty-five percent.

FCC also targeting robocalls

In addition to the FCC’s efforts to combat scam texts, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s commission is cracking down on scam phone calls.

The Truecaller report found that scam calls outnumber scam texts by a ratio of three to two, and that in the twelve months before its release last May, 68.4 million Americans lost money to scam callers – a loss of $39.5 billion ($577 per victim). These numbers have risen sharply year-over-year from 59.4 million victims and $29.8 billion in losses in 2021 ($502 per victim).

All told, the report said, thirty-three percent of the population reported falling victim to phone scams.