This month’s National Consumer Protection Week conference enlightened us about several new initiatives by two of the nation’s federal consumer protection agencies.
Deborah Marrone, Regional Director for the Federal Trade Commission’s Northeast Regional Office, spoke about current and future protections against robocalling – an illegal telemarketing practice where robots auto-dial consumers without their express consent. These calls have been been prohibited by federal law since 2009 and the federal government is examining the exposure of consumer privacy when they are made.
Not every type of automated phone call is prohibited by this regulation. Emergency phone calls – like severe weather alerts or states of emergency – are still allowed and very much needed for municipalities and relevant government agencies to contact their citizens in times of concern. Political phone calls, like reminders about elections, are still allowed, as they’re considered an important public service announcement.
Though the FTC’s prohibitions have been fairly successful in eliminating robocalls, regulators still face challenges. Scammers somehow find a way to utilize the newest technology to their advantage, and the need for new ways to block these illegal calls is evident. Recently the FTC put out a challenge to innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls.
After receiving nearly 800 eligible submissions, the agency announced its two individual winners, Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss, who tied for the $50,000 prize for Best Overall Solution. Both winning ideas focus involve technology to “blacklist” robocaller phone numbers and “whitelist” numbers that you want to accept, filtering out robocallers using a CAPTCHA-style test to prevent these illegal calls from being transmitted to a consumer’s telephone.
The FTC also accepted a winner for the Robocall Challenge Technology Achievement Award, with applicants from an organization with ten or more employees. Daniel Klein and Dean Jackson from Google won for their idea that involves using automated algorithms to identify “spam” callers.
For more information on robocalls, the robocall challenge and its winners, visit www.ftc.gov/robocalls. Click here for information and to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry; click here for the Massachusetts Do Not Call Registry.
How to Combat Illegal Robocalls posted on Jul 25
Robocalls have become an all-too-common nuisance for consumers. Robocalls are unsolicited, pre-recorded phone calls, often scams, which are made to consumers without their permission, as opposed to calls solicited by the consumer, such as those from pharmacies and childrens’ schools. Robocalls are illegal in Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 159C. While consumers can, and should, sign-up -for both the state and national Do-Not-Call lists, unfortunately this does not always stop many unscrupulous solicitors and scammers from making these calls.
Summary of the 2015 Consumer Federation of America Annual Consumer Complaint Survey posted on Jul 22
The Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators recently released the results of the 2015 Consumer Complaint Survey. This report is based on consumer information, complaints, and suggestions for increased consumer protections from 33 consumer agencies in 21 states.
Do-Not-Call Consumer & Solicitor Responsibilities posted on Jul 20
The Massachusetts Do-Not-Call Registry allows consumers to stop receiving certain telephone solicitations simply by signing-up and providing their telephone number. Established in 2003, the law requires telephone solicitors, list-brokers, and telemarketers to register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, subscribe to the Do-Not-Call Registry, and remove registered telephone numbers of consumers from their call lists.