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Ajit Pai Celebrates After Court Strikes Down Obama-Era Robocall Rule (arstechnica.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Federal judges have struck down an anti-robocall rule, saying that the Federal Communications Commission improperly treated every American who owns a smartphone as a potential robocaller. The FCC won't be appealing the court decision, as Chairman Ajit Pai opposed the rule changes when they were implemented by the commission's then-Democratic majority in 2015. Pai issued a statement praising the judges for the decision Friday, calling the now-vacated rule "yet another example of the prior FCC's disregard for the law and regulatory overreach." The FCC's 2015 decision said that a device meets the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) definition of an "autodialer" if it can be modified to make robocalls, even if the smartphone user hasn't actually downloaded an autodialing app. That interpretation treats all smartphones as autodialers because any smartphone has the capability of downloading an autodialing app, judges ruled. Since any call made by an autodialer could violate anti-robocall rules, this led to a troubling conclusion: judges said that an unwanted call from a smartphone could violate anti-robocall rules even if the smartphone user hasn't downloaded an autodialing app.

"The Commission's understanding would appear to subject ordinary calls from any conventional smartphone to the Act's coverage, an unreasonably expansive interpretation of the statute," a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a unanimous ruling Friday. The ruling came in a case filed against the FCC by the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, which says it represents "third-party collection agencies, law firms, asset buying companies, creditors, and vendor affiliates." Judges also invalidated an FCC rule that helped protect consumers from robocalls to reassigned phone numbers.

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Ajit Pai Celebrates After Court Strikes Down Obama-Era Robocall Rule

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    But I for one am happy I can't be hit with robocall fines and prosecution for simply dialing the wrong number.

  • So we can give him a few robocalls.
  • ...Strikes again.

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Monday March 19, 2018 @07:38PM (#56287855) Homepage Journal

    Why isn't it considered trespassing when someone uses my property to sell me something or to deliver a political spiel?

    • by nashv ( 1479253 ) on Monday March 19, 2018 @09:13PM (#56288423) Homepage

      Because it isn't trespassing. Other users are not using your property. They are transmitting signals to a network. You have voluntarily allowed your phone to connect to the network. You are receiving other people's calls because you have specifically allowed this action when you signed your phone contract. The problem is that some folks are abusing this, and are doing so in a way that will specifically impede your attempt to stop it (caller ID spoofing etc.).

      It's abuse, it may even be harassment. But it is not trespassing.

      • Absolutely and if I get a call from a number I haven't whitelisted, then I answer the phone, say "hello" and set it down as I continue to do other things if I do not recognize the number. Often while I listen to a video with people talking on youtube. I usually have the volume turned down these days because some of them were foul-mouthed.

        I also record numbers as spam and activated the auto-reject of spam numbers.

        Obviously we need some form of 'real id' for phones to correct modern abuse.

        But we won't be ge

      • My ex-boss used to get tons of robo faxes, which certainly used his property in the form of fax paper. I'm not familiar with FCC regulations or phone company rules with regards to fax machines, but I suppose there must have been some kind of BS that prevented him from doing something about it, because in the couple years I worked at that job, it just kept happening.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is such a thing as trespass to chattels, but if you listen to the EFF, they've pointed out that if we revived that rule, it'd end up criminalizing a lot of things that shouldn't be, too.

  • Fine, whatever (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AlanBDee ( 2261976 )

    Lets be honest, any laws against robo-dialers wasn't working or couldn't being enforced anyway. Any call I get from a number that's not in my contacts goes straight to voicemail, which is then translated into a text message. In fact, I rarely get a phone call from someone in my contacts as most personal interaction has moved to text messages.

    • Re:Fine, whatever (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Monday March 19, 2018 @07:46PM (#56287931)

      As I say, if they can't leave a voicemail, I'm not going to answer. Technology may have made this irrelevant anyway, not that I like it.

      Besides that, all these rules should be made in congress, and not the FCC. That's the real takeaway here, a do-nothing congress that really is the problem. Not an a-hole FCC chairman.

  • of pro-consumer rules (Net Neutrality, restrictions on pay day lenders, Dodd-Frank, and now this) that are being stripped clean. Is anyone on this forum in favor of all this? If not, is anyone going to change how they vote in the coming elections? Because if not it doesn't matter one wit.
  • Lol, so? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Notabadguy ( 961343 ) on Monday March 19, 2018 @08:44PM (#56288275)

    We're supposed to believe that the ruling reduced robocalls? And that they might pick up in volume?

    I don't know if anyone has noticed, but robocalls from spoofed numbers have been out of control for years. Neither this rule, nor any other rules are doing anything about them.

  • Many robo calls are using arbitrary numbers now. They can do that if they have a particular type of service. I know this for sure because I have received calls from myself!

    Then again, I guess it wasn't my smart phone that really initiated the call.

    • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday March 19, 2018 @09:13PM (#56288431)
      Actually, they just spoof the first 6 digits of your number and add a random 4 digits on the end, to make you think it's one of your neighbors calling. Problem is, like most people, my number just indicates where I lived 15 years ago when I first got my cell phone, so I literally don't know anybody with a similar number!
        • Yes, I was paraphrasing that xkcd. Truth is, I don't even remember when I started using that number, but it been transferred from T-Mobile to AT&T, then back to T-Mobile.
      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Actually, they just spoof the first 6 digits of your number and add a random 4 digits on the end, to make you think it's one of your neighbors calling.

        I came to that conclusion myself in this past six months. The robodialers had been trying to find a way to disguise their numbers because people have started to use online spam-alert websites like 800notes.com, and some services, like my Pixel 2, automatically flag an incoming call as "spam" if it's been reported as such. I've learned that if a call comes from the first six digits of my own phone number, it's spam. Someone using my prefix is not going to be a neighbor, in the age of cell phones, a prefix no

  • How about if we institute the death penalty for anybody that calls using a spoofed caller ID? Robocallers I can blacklist if they are honest about what number they are calling from!
  • Because fuck the intent of the law. Intent has long been an important consideration in the courts, but not anymore when that gets in the way of your preferred outcome, which is not to upload established law and you can nitpick technical detail that aren't well-defined by non-technical lawmakers. Bizzarro America persists.
  • ... Since any call made by an autodialer could violate anti-robocall rules, this led to a troubling conclusion: judges said that an unwanted call from a smartphone could violate anti-robocall rules even if the smartphone user hasn't downloaded an autodialing app...

    Whew. Way to go, FCC. Obviously this is a huge problem. Huge. The courts must be packed with heinous cell phone users who have been arrested for violating this law. Does anyone have any numbers of how many people have been convicted and fined the $500 for this? Or gone to trial? Maybe arrested? Hello? Anyone? Come on. The DC Circuit US C of A has a solid, real-life, blood & guts example:

    ... in a scenario such as this hypothetical ...

    . Errrr.

    Ok. So Mr Pai is diligently saving all Americans from a fate worse than ponies [twitter.com]. IANAL, but the

  • Stupid regulations. I am not a libertarian and I am all for government regulation. It's just the government regulation is an extremely complicated domain of technology. I wish that instead of fighting for votes of imbecile constituents bright minds from both parties were thinking together on how to regulate the unfathomable complexity of modern economy better.

    And this particular one is an example of that.

    Government regulation needs to be applied quickly in reaction to ever-going fight with the entropy of gr

  • by Anonymous Coward

    and I was not disappointed! Plenty of people did not read article and bashed Pai for endorsing a good decision. Because 'bad' people can never do 'good' things.

    • I'd love to believe that he's made the right choice here. On the face of it, the original rule was misguided at best, and quite possibly malicious. The problem is that the guy has proven himself to be such a tool for big businesses trying to fuck their customers, that we automatically assume we must be missing some ulterior motive. I'm going to assume good faith on this one, but there's still a niggling suspicion that this is going to cause something bad to happen to me.
  • Does this mean we can robocall the absolute shit out of Ajit and the FCC?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Does this mean we can robocall the absolute shit out of Ajit and the FCC?

      Not a big fan of reading TFS/TFA, huh?

      Can't fucking wait to attack and spew vitriol and hate, can you?

      Nothing has been done that makes robocalling legal. It just means you can't be prosecuted for dialing a wrong number on your smartphone.

      See, before this if Trump or Pai wanted to have your as thrown in prison because you posted something that pissed them off, they could have your phone records examined for any mis-dialed calls and use that to throw your SJW ass in with your new cellmate/boyfriend.

      I think yo

  • This one was totally useless in defeating robocallers like so many other government regulations that are simply feel-good, do-something-NOW, vote-getters.

  • by Mozai ( 3547 ) on Tuesday March 20, 2018 @10:09PM (#56294973) Homepage
    Is this why I've gotten three "we have a warrant for your arrest" robocalls in the past twenty-four hours? Same recording, but each is from a different state. and I'm not American.
  • If so, please respond with them so we can call him.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.

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