landline phones
Unwanted robocalls and spam texts to wireless phones can be blocked by service carriers, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Thursday, June 18, 2015. Julie Thurston Photography / Getty Images

Spam be gone! Phone companies are now legally able and encouraged to help consumers block unwanted robocalls and spam text messages, the Federal Communication Commission ruled Thursday. The FCC, in a 3-2 vote, clarified that consumers have the right to block robocalls and can revoke previous consent to companies. This right extends not only to automated voice messages but also to texts. The ruling also requires companies to actively clean out lists of blocked callers.

The legislation was mostly clarification about consumer protection by service providers. Indeed, wireless companies blocking robocalls was not illegal but has not necessarily been understood nor embraced. “It’s something that needs to be clarified,” Marguerite Sweeney, deputy attorney general in Indiana, told WIRED in January.

The FCC acknowledged this confusion and requests for clarification by both companies and consumers. The reform was described in the FCC's Open Meeting minutes as: "The Commission considered a Declaratory Ruling and Order reaffirming the Telephone Consumer Protection Act's protections against unwanted robocalls, encouraging pro-consumer uses of robocall technology, and responding to a number of requests for clarity from businesses and other callers."

The ruling does not require phone companies to make any changes, however. The technology to block calls has long been in existence. For example, Nomorobo is a cloud-based computing service that can identify and block a robocaller for landline phones but not for a mobile phone -- yet. Comcast XFINITY has signed on to Nomorobo and promotes the technology to its consumers, but other popular wireless services have not. However, the system is available to consumers to adopt themselves.

While the FCC is not mandating action, the commission has been promoting the legislation through its social media accounts. In the 24 hours since the legislation was passed, the Twitter account (@FCC) has tweeted eight messages about the ruling with the hashtag #StopRobocalls.