It may seem like you have been getting more and more robocalls lately, and that’s because you probably have. Hiya, a cell phone screening app company, reports that consumers in the United States received 4.9 billion robocalls in the first three months of 2018, which means the average person received six robocalls per month. These nearly 5 billion robocalls to start 2018 are a definite issue, but how do we lessen them?
Consumer Affairs reports that Hiya’s analysis of calls made to mobile numbers has identified three major types of robocalls. The largest number, at over 38 percent, is classified as general spam.
The second-largest group, at 27.2 percent, was identified as scam calls, in which criminals tried to steal money or personal information from consumers. The third major group of calls came from traditional telemarketers.
Most calls are illegal
Besides being annoying, many of these calls are illegal. According to Verizon, all calls with pre-recorded telemarketing sales messages are illegal unless you agreed to be called. Some non-marketing robocalls, such as political and charitable calls to wireline telephones, are legal in most states, even if they are not wanted.
Last week the Senate Commerce Committee held hearings on the problem, looking for ways regulators can reduce the number of computer-generated calls to wireless numbers.
“Abusive robocalls are persistently annoying and at worst they are a means for significant fraud and theft,” said committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
FCC’s call to action
Lois Greisman of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) marketing practices division, said changes in technology have enabled calls to be made more cheaply and on a larger scale than ever before, leading to increased consumer frustration. She said the FTC has brought 135 enforcement actions against robocalls, but the problem persists.
Margot Saunders, senior counsel for the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), said the surge in consumer complaints about these intrusive calls just underscores the need for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to strengthen the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to cover autodialed calls and to give consumers relief from this growing problem.
“The TCPA is the principal federal law to provide protections against harassing and unrelenting debt collection calls from first party creditors,” said Saunders. “The debt collection industry is a key driver of abusive calls that break the law with documented cases resulting in hundreds or even thousands of calls to a person even after repeated requests to stop.”
Saunders said the FCC should expand TCPA to cover all automated calls and texts. She warned that if the government’s definition of an automatic telephone dialing system is not sufficiently broad, consumers will have no protection against the growing number and types of unwanted calls and text messages.
How do you, as a consumer, feel about this? Have you received any robocalls? Let us know! Send an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from all of you.