They say “Nobody likes a complainer,” but don’t you believe it. For years, the FTC has encouraged consumers to speak up about questionable practices. We use those complaints in lots of different ways – for example, to spot emerging forms of fraud, to help set FTC priorities, and to bring law enforcement actions. Today we’re announcing a significant expansion in how we use complaint data in the ongoing fight against what some people view as Consumer Enemy #1.
The FTC is launching an initiative to provide telecom companies and other industry partners with daily information about the phone numbers that consumers are complaining about. The goal: to help generate solutions to block illegal calls.
Many call blocking tools rely on blacklists – databases of phone numbers that consumers report are the source of illegal calls. Under the new effort, when consumers contact us about unwanted calls, the phone numbers they’re complaining about will be released each business day to help companies that are implementing call blocking solutions. The newly available data also will include the date and time the consumer got the call, the general subject matter (debt reduction, warranties, home security, etc.), and whether it was a robocall. Companies working on call blocking tools will be able to use that information in determining which calls should be blocked or flagged.
This is just the latest step the FTC is taking to reduce the siege of illegal robocalls. We’ll continue to use the law enforcement tools in our arsenal, of course, but this is a battle we’re fighting on all fronts. That’s why we’re using innovative methods to work toward a technological solution to the pernicious pet peeve that tops the list with 1.9 million consumer complaints in the first five months of 2017. And now more than ever, those complaints are an important weapon in the fight.
Why should law-abiding companies support the fight against illegal robocalls? Two reasons: 1) because consumers vexed by bothersome calls may not be as receptive to other forms of advertising – in other words, malicious marketing is bad for business; and 2) because they annoy the heck out of you, too.