Monday, November 14, 2011

Junk Calls

Is there anything more annoying than getting a robocall on your cellphone?

Okay, so maybe the person who uses the express check-out lane with a cart full of groceries and a fist full of coupons might be more annoying but still…

Nobody likes getting an automated call on their mobile phones…or do they?

According to this story by Randall Stross in The New York Times there are good robocalls and there are bad robocalls.

“A robocall to a cellphone about a scheduled softball game that has just been rained out is welcome. A robocall to the same cellphone from a debt collector may not be.”

Some in the telecommunications industry would like to make it easier to make the bad kind and “are pushing for a clearer path to making those calls.”

“Telemarketers cannot make prerecorded calls to either residential landlines or cellphones, unless the recipient has provided express consent or has a business relationship with the caller. For commercial calls that do not involve an explicit sales pitch, the law extends special protection to cellphones: automated equipment cannot be used unless the recipient has provided consent.”

This consent has proven to be fairly ambiguous so the FCC is working on stricter rules to define what actually qualifies as consent. Powerful interests including the American Bankers Association and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals are pushing back, arguing that the current rules are outdated.

“The lobbyists try to argue that the protections extended to cellphones in 1991 were necessary only because the per-minute cost of receiving calls was high. Those costs have fallen greatly since then — so, they argue, there is no need to continue to treat cellphones differently.”

Judging from what Steve Kroft reported last night about the way Congress works these days, it looks like we’re screwed.
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