In spite of efforts to legislate and regulate them out of existence, unwanted prerecorded and/or auto-dialed robocalls are still dominate consumers’ complaints about their phone service. Today, our colleagues at Consumers Union delivered a petition — signed by hundreds of thousands of people who want the nation’s telecom providers to do something about robocalls — to the AT&T headquarters in Texas.
While tools exist for individuals to put up robocall roadblocks on their own, the telecom industry has so far been reluctant to implement anything on a wider scale.
Those providers that do offer options to block specific numbers generally charge for the service or put limits on this sort of blacklisting. For example, AT&T allows landline customers to pay $8.50/month to block up to 10 numbers and all anonymous callers. Similarly, Verizon charges landline customers $6/month to block either 6 or 12 numbers (it depends on your service area), and another $6/month to block anonymous numbers.
But critics argue that this sort of customer-generated blacklist puts the onus on the consumer, and that such small blacklists are often pointless when dealing with scammy robocallers who use spoofed phone numbers and bogus Caller ID information to mask where they are really calling from.
Consumers Union, and the more than 500,000 people who have signed on to its End Robocalls campaign, contend that the telecoms are best suited to provide network-level blocking and flagging services.
For example, Time Warner Cable recently integrated the Nomorobo blocker into its phone service, meaning any TWC phone customer can switch it on or off with a few clicks of a mouse. Nomorobo does not yet work on traditional landline service, but there are other options available for these older networks — and certainly the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world have the tech know-how to cook something up on their own.
This morning, Consumers Union and concerned Dallas-area consumers delivered that petition to AT&T headquarters.
“We’re calling on companies to step in and act and provide companies with free and effective tools to block these tools before they get to their homes,” explained Consumers Union End Robocalls campaign leader Tim Marvin to a local NBC affiliate.
In a statement to Consumerist, AT&T acknowledges that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
“Robocalls are an industry-wide issue and we continue to work closely with the government and industry partners to make improvements,” reads the statement. “We appreciate Consumers Union’s input and will continue our work to help find solutions.”
With more than 800 robocalls being made every second in the U.S., the hope is that the industry will go beyond merely admitting that the problem exists and step up to combat these nuisance calls that generate hundreds of thousands of complaints each month to the Federal Trade Commission.