Nothing has been able to eliminate scam robocalls — not federal regulation, not individual state lawsuits, not private software. Each effort has made a dent, but the unwanted calls keep on coming, much to the consternation of Americans on the receiving end. Now, all 50 state attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats, have come together through a newly formed task force to go after U.S. telecommunications companies that allow robocalls originating overseas to reach their customers, Stateline, reports. Stopping nuisance calls from foreign countries has been particularly challenging. The AGs have put telecom companies on notice that they must stop the scam calls before they go through to customers, or face prosecution. Experts say that strategy just might work.
“The problem has been that the [Federal Communications Commission] fines someone … one at a time, or one AG shuts down a carrier,” said Alex Quilici of YouMail, a robocall-blocking software. “Now, it’s 50 going after them and 50 court proceedings and 50 fines. I’m optimistic that this will make some impact. Enforcement really is key.” By coordinating lawsuits, the attorneys general make it more expensive for the robocaller companies, which had calculated the cost of individual court cases into their cost of doing business. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in January sued telephone service provider Articul8 for allegedly facilitating illegal and fraudulent telemarketing phone calls in his state. Stein alleges the company sent 65 million fraud calls to his constituents in just a few months. Now, Stein, a Democrat, and GOP attorneys general Todd Rokita of Indiana and Dave Yost of Ohio are leading the effort to coordinate similar suits against telecom providers on a 50-state (plus the District of Columbia) basis by forming an Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force.