Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita started 2022 by announcing his intention to continue aggressively pursuing robocallers and summarizing the actions taken by his office in 2021. This included calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revise its rules to increase accountability, implementing new technologies to shorten the time for the AG to investigate complaints concerning robocalls, and litigating to ensure that consumers are protected against robocalls.
Shortly after announcing his policy priority for 2022, Attorney General Rokita joined 50 other attorney generals in responding to the FCC’s public notice to support its proposal to stem the tide of foreign-originated illegal robocalls by increasing obligations on “gateway providers” — i.e., the first U.S.-based provider in the call path of a foreign-originated call that transmits the call directly to another intermediate provider or a termination voice service provider in the United States. Among other issues, the AGs specifically supported the FCC proposals to require gateway providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication to verify foreign-originated calls that use U.S.-based phone numbers.
The AGs also supported proposals that would require gateway providers to engage in specific robocall mitigation programs, including 24-hour traceback response; mandatory call blocking; know-your-customer requirements; adoption of certain contractual provisions with foreign providers; and a general duty to mitigate illegal robocalls. The AGs explained that bad actors are often entirely nonresponsive to traceback requests and government subpoenas, and that having mandatory call blocking will provide them with the necessary tools to eliminate illegal robocalls.
By their own concession, the state AGs recognize that the FCC’s proposed actions will not completely solve the illegal robocall and spoofing epidemics, but they believe that implementing the proposals will provide sate AGs with more tools to battle the epidemics and will protect more consumers.
Attorney General Rokita, however, is not simply waiting for the FCC to promulgate regulations addressing the foreign-originated illegal robocalls. Indeed, he initiated a lawsuit styled State of Indiana v. Startel Comm., LLC, No. 3:21-cv-00150 in the Southern District of Indiana against individuals and entities that allegedly provided substantial assistance to foreign robocallers that made millions of such illegal calls. Currently, before the court in that case is a frontal attack on this lawsuit, with a motion to dismiss, arguing that the AG lacks the legal and jurisdictional authority to pursue the litigation. The AG concedes that it is “a first-of-its-kind lawsuit,” but if it survives dismissal, we expect that it will not be the last.