FCC Orders Phone Companies to Block Car Warranty Robocalls
The FCC is tired of hearing about its extended warranties, too.
"We've been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty."
Virtually every American has heard this phrase spoken through their phone in the past decade, and it's part of a series of robocall scams intended to bilk car owners out of money. It's been a success for the scammers; the Federal Trade Commission estimates that one company successfully defrauded consumers of $6 million. At long last, the Federal Communications Commission has had enough and is telling phone carriers to stop letting robocallers use their networks for warranty scams.
Robocalls have been a plague on U.S. consumers in recent years as caller-ID spoofing and VoIP dialing made it easier to place hundreds of spam calls in a short span of time. In 2018, YouMail, which makes spam-call-blocking software, estimated that Americans' phones rang 47.8 billion times that year with automated phone calls. The auto warranty scam calls specifically have become a majority of these, with the FCC reporting that its most frequently reported consumer complaint for the past two years was auto-warranty-related spam calls. The warranties, which are not made by actual OEMs and frequently are packed with fine print that makes them functionally useless, are already largely illegal to call about, thanks to the Do Not Call List and the TRACED act. The calls haven't abated in spite of these laws, and so the FCC is now tasking phone carriers themselves with blocking them before they even get through the network.
As far as the "extended warranties" offered by third parties, they date back to 2001, when a company called US Fidelis began offering deceptively worded "warranties" that provided almost no actual coverage. The phone call scam itself, however, started in 2007, when US Fidelis began an automated phone call system to aggressively market its services. In the span of 10 months, the company made 1 billion robocalls; it attracted the ire of 40 different states, and the company was banned from phone advertising. It went bankrupt shortly thereafter. The break proved temporary, in 2016, memes were popping up about extended warranty calls yet again, and by 2018, the FCC reported the topic received the most complaints.