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Phone companies and attorneys general from all 50 US states are touting a new agreement to fight robocalls, but it won't actually do much to help consumers.
The top wireless carriers and home phone providers promised attorneys general from every state and the District of Columbia that they would offer free robocall blocking and take other steps to fight robocalls. But the agreement imposes no legally binding requirements on phone providers. "Failure to adhere to these principles is not in itself a basis for liability," a disclaimer on the agreement notes.
Even if breaking the agreement was a basis for liability, there would be no deadline to comply. "Adherence to these principles may take time for the voice service providers to plan for and implement," the disclaimer also said, while providing no specific timeline for the carriers to fulfill their promises.
Given that disclaimer, you'd think carriers actually agreed to make some major changes. But the agreement's top promises are things the phone companies are already doing or in the process of rolling out.
The promise of "free" robocall blocking can be met by offering a basic level of call blocking for free, even if carriers also charge a monthly fee for more robust call-blocking services. We contacted the top four wireless carriers yesterday—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—and none of them promised any additional free services beyond what they already offer. The agreement between carriers and states doesn't say what level of call blocking must be offered for free, so it's up to the carriers to decide.
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