Tom Houston • about 10 years ago
From the Consumer's Standpoint
I've reviewed the presentations from the FTC summit "Robocalls All the Rage" and I've looked at quite a few of the discussions in this forum. It's obvious that there is no single, immediately available solution to the problem. For some time, consumers will need to cope while the FTC, FCC, and carriers implement strategies to fight robocalling. As a consumer, here are some things that I would like to see happen to help us cope:
1. Simplify the complaint process. One day, after receiving a call from "cardholder services", I decided to go to the donotcall.gov web site to file a complaint. The complaint process was so laborious and time consuming that during the time it took to complete it, I received 2 more robocalls. I gave up on this complaint process, which is unfortunate because I think that consumer feedback could be an extremely valuable tool to enable carriers and law enforcement to quickly identify and shut down robocallers. As a consumer, I would like to be able to report telemarketers instantly using something similar to the *57 call trace, or the Primus *44 Telemarketing Guard. My expectation would be that (a) the complaint would be routed in real-time to both the carrier and to law enforcement for appropriate action and (b) that the service would be free to the consumer. Ideally the dialing sequence used for the complaint procedure would be standardized across carriers, but interim carrier-specific solutions would be useful.
2. Tell me whether the caller ID is verified, unverified, unavailable, or suspicious. Ideally caller ID should be made spoof-proof, but in the interim, I think most consumers would find it helpful to have an "integrity" indicator displayed with the name field of the caller ID. For example, every carrier should be able to verify the identity of calls that originate within their network and could use this information to flag calls as "verified". (Hopefully this could be extended to inter-carrier calls for the major carriers, but even if it weren't it would be useful.) Calls from VoIP could be flagged as "unverified". A call might be flagged as "suspicious" based on complaint feedback (see 1).
3. Give me choices. Assuming that my carrier assigns an "integrity" indicator to the caller ID, I'd like to be able to customize how that indicator is used for incoming calls. For example, I would reject calls whose caller ID is unavailable or suspicious. I would like to send calls with "unverified" caller ID's directly to voicemail unless they are in a whitelist that I maintain.
What I've proposed above aren't actually solutions – rather, they're changes to the consumer experience that could feed into solutions. I don't try to describe what gets captured with the complaint data – whether it's the caller ID, ANI, trace data, etc. – since that could change over time. As a consumer, I simply want to assist by identifying infractions. My hope is that carriers could use the information to automatically filter calls, or law enforcement could shut down a scam before it bilks someone. The caller ID integrity indicators might be crude initially, but over time (e.g., as authentication standards are deployed throughout the industry) they could become increasingly reliable.
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