Robocalls – It Depends On Content, Not on How It’s Dialed

The few robocalls I get on my cellphone are fast-talker recordings on a political issue. I often retort even though they are not listening.  I don’t get any public service warnings telling me of looming tornados, school snow days or Amber Alerts.  I don’t get sales calls from companies I have no affiliation with.

Somehow I have the good luck of avoiding most robocalls.  Perhaps it’s because my cell phone is usually turned off.  When robocallers reach an “off the grid” phone, they rarely leave a message.  And perhaps it matters that my area code is known to be Northern Virginia, but it’s nearly always serviced from cell towers in Florida.  People I know leave messages and I respond as needed.

My email service has been an even better filter.  For each email in my Inbox, I get ten in my Spam folder that I can toss at my leisure.  Over nine years, I trained the email service on what to keep and what to junk.  The triage is imperfect and a few offers sneak through from travel companies I dealt with in the past.

Some businesses are asking the FCC to take a closer look at the robocall issue.  There are some calls that promote public safety or which are for opinion research, but which are being treated in court as wanton violations of regulations that ban telemarketing using a predictive dialer (which dials a database of numbers predictively splicing in an agent to speak to any dialed party who answers).  It is the nature of telemarketing tactics, aggressiveness and frequent deceit that merits its ban.

And surely the purpose of the call matters far more than the technology used to place the call.   Public safety messages are often the most important calls.  Opinion research is almost always non-threatening.  Public safety and opinion research calls should be permitted using any call-placing technology.  They are far more socially redeeming than vacuous assertions and dirty tricks from politicians who exempt themselves from the robocall ban.  Next thing we know, they’ll be exempting themselves from ACA participation.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

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