The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is issuing a new rule that would require all mobile wireless providers to block certain spam text messages that are highly likely to be illegal, while also proposing that Do-Not-Call protections extend to marketing text messages.

In a report detailing the rule, the FCC said that text messages can often pose similar problems as unwanted calls – invading consumer privacy and serving as vehicles for consumer fraud and identity theft.

“Text message-based scams can include links to well-designed phishing websites that appear identical to the website of a legitimate company and can fool a victim into providing personal or financial information,” the report says. “Texted links can also load unwanted software onto a device, including malware that steals passwords, credentials, or other personal information.”

“We are therefore, for the first time, requiring all mobile wireless providers to block certain text messages that are highly likely to be illegal, so that all subscribers have a basic level of protection,” it adds. “This action will help to ensure that all wireless consumers receive the same protections, regardless of which mobile wireless provider they use to receive SMS and MMS messages.”

The FCC explained that while robotexts can be both legal and illegal, this rule targets illegal text messages. Illegal texts could include those made with an autodialer and sent without the necessary consent – because the number displayed is illegally spoofed – among other reasons.

The rule requires mobile wireless providers to add numbers to the Do-Not-Originate list, and block them at the network level “without requiring consumer opt-in or opt-out.”

At the same time, the FCC is looking for further input related to spam text messages. In a document posted to the Federal Register on April 7, the FCC said it is seeking comment on:

  • whether to require terminating mobile wireless providers to block text messages when notified by the FCC that they are likely scams,
  • text message authentication,
  • extending Do-Not-Call protections to marketing text messages, and
  • banning the practice of obtaining a single consumer consent as a justification for calls and texts from multiple sellers and potential fraudsters.

As for the Do-Not-Call protections, the FCC said that the Do-Not-Call Registry has been operational for almost two decades and protects over 246 million telephone numbers from telemarketing sales calls. The commission’s proposed rule aims to expand those protections to marketing text messages as well.

The proposed rule would “require that, before sending a marketing text to consumers, the texter must have the consumer’s prior express invitation or permission, which must be evidenced by a signed, written agreement between the consumer and seller, which states that the consumer agrees to be contacted by this seller and includes the telephone number to which the calls may be placed.”

Comments are due by May 8 and reply comments are due by June 6.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.