Two developments last month portend a more difficult time for entities "spoofing" caller ID information. On December 22, President Obama signed into law the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 [sic], which makes it unlawful for a person to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with an intent to defraud. In addition, the FTC is seeking comment on rule changes to strengthen the caller ID provisions of its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).
Descriptions of both developments are provided below.
Truth in Caller ID Act. On December 22, President Obama signed into law the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 [sic]. The Act makes it unlawful for any person to cause any caller ID system "to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value." The prohibition applies to caller ID used in connection with both telecommunications services and IP-enabled services (VoIP).
The FCC has 6 months to enact regulations to implement the prohibition. In addition, the FCC must submit a recommendation whether additional legislation is necessary to prohibit the provision of inaccurate caller ID information in technologies that are successors to traditional telecommunications or VoIP.
FTC Rulemaking to Strengthen Caller ID. On December 7, the FTC released a public notice seeking comment on ways to strengthen the caller ID provisions of its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). According to the FTC, "spoofing" has become more common and it is seeking comment on ways to strengthen the rules to prohibit the practice. The FTC specifically identified the following issues for comment:
* How widespread is consumer use of Caller ID services to screen unwanted calls, and do consumers use other services that rely on the transmission of calling party numbers (CPN), such as call-blocking equipment, to avoid unwelcome telemarketing calls?
* Would changes to the Telemarketing Sales Rule improve the ability of Caller ID services to accurately disclose the source of telemarketing calls or improve the ability of service providers to block calls in which information on the source of the call is not available, or has been spoofed?
* Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions of the Rule to recognize or anticipate specific developments in telecommunications technologies relating to the transmission and use of Caller ID information, and if so, how?
* Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions of the Rule to further specify the characteristics of the phone number that a telemarketer must transmit to a Caller ID service? For example, should the Rule require that the phone number transmitted be one that is listed in publicly available phone directories, a number with an area code and prefix that are associated with the physical location of the telemarketer’s place of business, a number that is answered by a live representative, or automated service that identifies the telemarketer by name?
* Should the FTC amend the Caller ID provisions to allow a seller or telemarketer to use trade names or product names, rather than the actual name of the seller or telemarketer, in the name information displayed by Caller ID services?
Comments are due before the FTC by January 28. Links to relevant FTC sites are available in our Resource Center.