By: Sheridan Maxey

The advent of the telephone brought about a new age of communication that many individuals would never have fathomed. As time has gone on telephones, specifically cellular phones, have become an almost required accessory to live a functional life.[1] It is not all that surprising that children are beginning to receive phones so they can easily remain in contact with their parents.[2] Phones have become incredibly beneficial and while there is some speculation that it may eventually be replaced, it is unlikely that they will fall out of favor anytime soon.[3]

Of course, not all great things come without their drawbacks. Almost any person with a cell phone, whether it be a flip phone or a smart phone, can claim that they have been called by robotic spam calls.[4] These calls come in the form of telemarketers seeking to gain money for a product or service, scammers seeking to relinquish individuals of their earnings, or even calls that seemingly have no purpose other than to bother you.[5] One company reports that there were as many as 5.3 billion spam calls made in March alone.[6] Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that it will allow telephone service providers to block these unwanted calls by default.[7] This means that many owners of cell phones who previously used third-party apps to block spam calls may be able to do so through their service provider. One concern with the FCC’s ruling is that although companies are now allowed to block spam calls by default, there is no regulation that would stop them from charging customers to do so.[8] In addition to the FCC’s regulations, the House passed a bill in July named the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act which is intended to protect consumers from unwanted and malicious spam calls.[9] Just this past Wednesday the 4th, the House voted in favor of the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act which is a follow-up measure from the one passed earlier in July.[10] Supporting Representatives’ statements indicate that the purpose of the bill is to allow for spam calls to be consistently blocked, and to allow for the FCC and law enforcement to punish scammers.[11]

Although laws are in the works, it is not evident whether they will truly be effective in heavily reducing the number of calls that consumers receive on a daily basis. To avoid having to rely solely on service providers to block all of the spam calls coming in, there are steps that people can take to mitigate them. Social media and online forums have quickly become popular among many individuals. These outlets often require that individuals divulge their email addresses and phone numbers to participate on their websites.[12] Although it may be difficult, refraining from participating in social media and forums, or at least refusing to provide sensitive information whenever possible, can help prevent unwanted calls.[13] Phone owners should not have to worry about being called by people or programs who are not supposed to have their phone numbers, but until effective progress is made in limiting those calls we will have to remain strong and endure.

 

[1] See Andrew D. Selbst & Julia Ticona, Supreme Court Must Understand: Cell Phones Aren’t Optional, Wired (Nov. 29, 2017), https://www.wired.com/story/supreme-court-must-understand-cell-phones-arent-optional/.

[2] See Jacqueline Howard, When Kids Get Their First Cell Phones Around The World, CNN Health (Dec. 11, 2017), https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/11/health/cell-phones-for-kids-parenting-without-borders-explainer-intl/index.html.

[3] See Damien McFerran, When Will The Smartphone Die?, Techradar (Sept. 26, 2018), https://www.techradar.com/news/when-will-the-smartphone-die.

[4] See Ajit Pai, FCC Should Block Robocalls By Default, USA Today (Jun. 6, 2019), https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/06/fcc-proposal-help-stop-robocalls-vote-column/1355299001/.

[5] Id.

[6] See Mike Snider, Robocall Ruling By FCC Will Let Phone Companies Block Unwanted Calls By Default, USA Today (Jun. 6, 2019), https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2019/06/06/robocall-rule-fcc-phone-companies-block-unwanted-calls/1366898001/.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] See Octavia Blanco, Robocall Bill Wins Approval In The House, Consumer reports (Jul. 24, 2019), https://www.consumerreports.org/robocalls/robocall-bill-wins-approval/.

[10] See Victor Reklaitis, Robocalls Bill Looks On Track To Become Law, But Lacks Bite of Earlier House Measure, Marketwatch (Dec. 4, 2019), https://www.marketwatch.com/story/compromise-robocalls-bill-that-appears-headed-for-passage-lacks-bite-of-earlier-house-measure-2019-12-03.

[11] Id.

[12] See Madeline Purdue, How Do They Have My Number? 5 Ways To Avoid Being Put On Robocall Lists, USA Today (Jun. 6, 2019), https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/06/stop-robocalls-before-they-dial-your-number/1346212001/.

[13] Id.

 

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