Make the telephone companies stop robocalls

Call-blocking technology exists but telcos are reluctant to offer it

Published: May 11, 2015 06:00 AM

Your call is very important to us—NOT!!

That was essentially the response from AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, the three largest carriers in the United States, to a written request from Consumers Union (the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports) to take action against the growing onslaught of robocalls.  

The letters to the telcos were written as part of the EndRobocalls campaign launched by the Consumers Union in February. Close to 300,000 people have signed the petition on the campaign website demanding AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon provide customers free, effective call-blocking technologies to stop unwanted robocalls. Over 30,000 have shared their stories of how the deluge of unwanted calls—often over ten calls per day— interrupts their lives and compromises their safety.

For more information on this subject, read How to End Annoying Robocalls.

Tut tut, replied Verizon in a letter dated March 9, 2015. "This is an area where we share a common interest. Robocalls burden our customers and potentially reduce the value of the service we provide."

READ Consumers Union's Report on How Phone Companies Could End Unwanted Robocalls

But their sympathy ended there. "Although Verizon works hard to identify and shut down illegal robocalls. . . currently there is no way for a communications provider to ensure that a network-based blocking solution will not accidentally block a legitimate robocall, such as a school closing or public safety announcement."

Verizon’s suggestion: "Industry, law enforcement and consumer groups can work together to tackle this issue." Meanwhile, consumers are welcome to research, buy and install call-blocking products (such as Nomorobo) on their own.

AT&T declared in its letter that addressing robocalls "is a business priority for AT&T" and asserted that AT&T is working with "government and industry to combat the problem." But, they sighed, "no easy or comprehensive solution exists to identify and eliminate the illegal or unwanted telemarketing or robocalls from the billions of calls that traverse carrier networks." Perhaps, they suggested, the transition from legacy landlines to Internet Protocol networks "will speed the development of more effective tools." Don’t hold your breath.

CenturyLink asserted that it felt your pain. "We understand consumers' concern about the problem of unlawful, automated calls and share customers' frustrations." Its solution was to propose that consumers be reminded "that they need to exercise caution when dealing with any telephone solicitation."

There is a solution

The fact is, states the Consumers Union’s grassroots organizer Timothy Marvin, "Technology is available to stop robocalls, but [phone companies have] been reluctant to offer it to all [their] customers." Given that consumers have found Nomorobo—a service designed to stop robocalls—to be effective, Marvin called on the phone companies to explain "why your engineers cannot create software that would provide a similar, or even more effective, service to all of your subscribers."
Meanwhile, you can keep up the pressure on the telcos by adding your signature and story at The more people who sign, the less the phone companies will be able to ignore your call.

Catherine Fredman

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