September 7, 2022

FCC Cites Bandwidth and Vonage for Failing to Implement STIR/SHAKEN

FCC Cites Bandwidth and Vonage for Failing to Implement STIR/SHAKEN

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set June 30, 2021, as the date when all carriers and voice providers must implement STIR/SHAKEN technology that validates phone number ownership and ensures identities. Considering that a record number of consumers are still complaining about receiving robocalls and scam calls, it’s pretty obvious that some carriers did not follow the FCC mandate.

STIR/SHAKEN relies on universal participation to function. When a handful of carriers fail to adopt the technology, the system can’t verify every call.

The good news is that most major carriers met the June deadline because they understand the importance of confirming number ownership. Some smaller companies requested extensions because they struggled to meet the deadline. It makes sense that smaller carriers might need a little more time, but their failures still impact the whole industry.

Therefore, it’s not particularly surprising that the FCC is targeting two companies, Vonage and Bandwidth, for non-compliance.

Voice Providers Received Citations

The FCC had taken a fairly relaxed approach to STIR/SHAKEN implementation until February 17, 2022, when it announced that it would investigate Vonage and Bandwidth for violations of STIR/SHAKEN compliance.

These companies likely stood out as top offenders because they weren’t following regulations that would stop robocalls. Robocall complaints have been increasing for years, and the annoying calls have become more effective at tricking consumers because scammers know how to spoof the phone numbers of trusted organizations. The average person might ignore a call coming from an unknown number, but that person will answer when it comes from a hospital, school, or bank that might need to tell them important information.

FCC is stepping up investigations

The FCC hasn’t released the findings of its investigations, so it’s unclear whether these voice service providers have a clear path to compliance or face fines for non-compliance. They know that the FCC is paying attention, though. It also sends a signal to the rest of the industry that the FCC plans to take a more active stance to ensure the ongoing rollout of STIR/SHAKEN.

If the FCC pursues fines, the companies could face significant financial problems. Earlier this year, the federal agency proposed a $45 million fine for Interstate Brokers of America (IBA), a company that allegedly placed more than half a million unlawful robocalls.

It’s unclear whether service providers would receive fines lower or higher than those proposed for IBA. It’s worth mentioning that IBA’s robocalls were trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by selling insurance products to consumers.

Importance of Working With Trusted Partners

Businesses that place outbound calls to leads and customers rely on their service carriers to provide effective services. Unfortunately, many business owners and managers find STIR/SHAKEN confusing. They aren’t sure whether their calls comply with new regulations.

Realistically, you shouldn’t need to learn the details of telecommunications technology to follow regulations. Your carrier should handle that aspect for you. That’s why it’s critical for businesses to choose reliable voice service providers that comply with STIR/SHAKEN rules.

Some of STIR/SHAKEN’s earliest adopters include:

  • T-Mobile
  • Verizon
  • AT&T
  • Comcast

Plenty of smaller voice carriers have also added STIR/SHAKEN to their caller validation processes. Make sure you choose a company that uses STIR/SHAKEN. Otherwise, you could experience an interruption in service when the FCC targets them for non-compliance.

Call Compliance Is Essential

Service interruption isn’t your only concern. STIR/SHAKEN compliance helps improve relationships between businesses and consumers. People despise getting robocalls so much that about 80% have stopped answering calls from unknown numbers.

Now that the FCC has gotten more involved in call compliance, the relationship between consumers and businesses could start healing. However, it will take time for people to regain trust.

What can your business do in the meantime?

First, you should stop relying on old dialing practices. Placing high volumes of cold calls every day doesn’t work anymore. It will only make consumers warier of your brand.

Second, you should adopt ethical dialing practices. That means:

  • Scrubbing your contact lists to remove the names of numbers of people on the DNC registry.
  • Scrubbing your contact lists to remove people on your internal do-not-call list.
  • Only placing outbound calls between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (in the contact’s time zone).
  • Hiring experienced professionals to place calls instead of relying on prerecorded messages, automated voice technologies, and similar tools.
  • Training your employees to use empathy while talking to contacts.
  • Reviewing your practices and regulations to ensure compliance.

Registering your number’s information (company name, department name, logo, etc.) also helps consumers recognize and learn to trust your brand.

Over time, you should find that it becomes easier for your call center to reach contacts. Eventually, people will learn to trust your brand. Ideally, STIR/SHAKEN will make it easier for all businesses to reach their contacts. For now, you have an opportunity to take the lead and set an example in your industry,

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