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US Robocalls in the Economist

posted May 24, 2018, 12:58 PM by EZvoip Co   [ updated May 24, 2018, 1:07 PM ]

Despite a consumer backlash, it's unlikely that the Trump Administration can or wants to do anything. In Europe, GDPR has caused an exodus of advertisers and "Google Consolidation". Far from being effective, CRTC's rules of opt-in consent have similarly impeded small businesses with high costs of compliance, resulting in numerous casualties. PoF, a freemium online dating site given as example in the previous link, ended swallowed up by one of its less successful but more expensive and better funded competitors. Which suggests that FCC's "laissez-fair" approach in this matter may be a blessing in disguise.

robocalls in USA
ROBOCALLS, the pre-recorded phone messages peddling debt-reduction and timeshares, have irritated consumers in America for over a decade. According to YouMail, a call-blocking service, 3.4bn robocalls were blasted out in April, equivalent to nearly 1,300 every second. The Federal Trade Commission receives 500,000 complaints about such calls every month (see chart). Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), America’s telecoms regulator, says Americans are “mad as hell”. Robocalls are consistently the agency’s top consumer complaint. Can anything be done?

Most commercial robocalls have been illegal since 1991, when Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In 2012 the FCC banned telemarketers from making robocalls to consumers without prior written consent and eliminated a loophole allowing companies to robocall consumers with whom they have an “established business relationship”, causing a temporary lull in complaints. Despite successful cases against legitimate firms like Bank of America and Sallie Mae, federal regulators have struggled to stop shady outfits. Auto-diallers allow fraudsters to blast out millions of calls at little cost; “spoofing” software disguises their identities. After robocaller phone numbers are identified and black-listed, new ones pop up in their place. Many robocalling operations are based overseas and beyond the authorities’ reach.

Some firms have joined the fight. In 2016 a group of over 30 carriers and technology companies including AT&T, Verizon, Apple and Alphabet formed a “strike force” to take on the robocall scourge. Dozens of mobile apps claim to block scammers. Whether the White House will join the assault remains to be seen. History suggests that Donald Trump may not be a steadfast soldier. “I did lots of robocalls” for political campaigns, Mr Trump bragged to the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, after the 2014 mid-term elections. “Everybody I did a robocall for won.”

(via Economist)