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Kill the Robots: Chuck Schumer Leads Charge Against Robocalls

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Kill the Robots: Chuck Schumer Leads Charge Against Robocalls

June 10, 2016

  By Steve Anderson, Contributing Writer

The robocall is alternately a great advance and a great downfall for marketing. Few tools have such impressive reach and frequency in the field, and are available for a comparatively minimal investment. However, robocalls come with a downside: negative customer perception. Sufficiently negative, in fact, that government efforts are coming to life against robocalls, led by New York Democrat Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer.

Earlier efforts to restrain telephone marketing led to the generally popular federal Do Not Call Registry, a measure that allowed customers to put their names and numbers on a list that, except for a comparatively few exceptions like not-for-profit or research groups, is immune from receiving calls on penalty of civil fines. Generally, companies honored this list, as failure to would cost the caller directly. Robocalls, however, have made the Do Not Call Registry difficult to enforce; with minimal contact data provided to the callers, it's hard to perform the required notifications the Do Not Call Registry requires to collect the fines.

With Do Not Call related complaints on track to break a record this year, Schumer is bringing out new legislation requiring phone companies to offer consumers technology that actively blocks robocalls. The so-called Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones—ROBOCOP—Act, introduced by California Democrat Jackie Speier in the U.S. House of Representatives calls for similar provisions, and Schumer seems to be bringing such a charge to the Senate.

Robocalls have several methods to beat standard protection methods, ranging from caller ID spoofing—appearing to be legitimate while not actually being so—to targeting users without caller ID. The ROBOCOP Act, meanwhile, looks to penalize companies for using such moves and essentially require companies to adhere to the Do Not Call list. Some telecom providers already have such technology in place, and the ROBOCOP Act would require its dissemination to users.

This might be a bit heavy-handed; just because some phone providers have this technology doesn't mean that all of them do, and if those who don't have to get it, those costs have to go somewhere, and will probably go to the phone subscriber. Indeed, some note that with dismal jobs reports afoot, worldwide tensions on the rise, and a host of other issues in play, worrying about a problem that's solved as easily as hanging up the phone might be akin to polishing the brass on the Titanic. Worse, robocall users don't seem to realize that heeding the Do Not Call list is in their own best interest; calling people who don't want to be called is a sure bet to not get anywhere with that call.

It would be nice to stop robocalls at their source, but a law to prevent it may be reaching a bit. Still, with people eager to see the robocall put down, the new law may prove welcome.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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