The Latest on Robocalls & The Do Not Call Registry

When the “Do Not Call” list was first introduced, many people thought that it would finally put a stop to unsolicited calls.

All that consumers would need to do is put their names on a list and people like telemarketers wouldn’t be able to call anymore. Many looked forward to the silence that would follow once the phones stopped ringing off the hook.

Sure, some still slipped through the cracks, but by and large the system seemed to work. Unfortunately, that may actually be hitting the nail on the head… the Do Not Call Registry seems to work, but its actual effectiveness may leave a lot to be desired.

What Is the “Do Not Call” Registry?

First, a bit of history. The “Do Not Call” registry was created by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2003 to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

The goal of the registry was simple: It would be a database containing the phone numbers of people who didn’t want to receive unsolicited marketing calls. Numbers were originally supposed to stay in the database for five years, but the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007 changed this so that numbers would remain on the list permanently.

As established by law, the registry was intended to stop most unsolicited calls. Some people didn’t realize that certain types of calls were allowed, though. Political calls, calls from established nonprofits, survey calls and calls from debt collectors were still allowed under the law. It also took up to 31 days for calls to stop before a company could face penalties for calling.

What Are Robocalls?

You’ve likely encountered robocalls before.

Instead of having a person sit at a phone and cold call everyone on a list, many companies use an autodialer that dials the number and plays a prerecorded message once a connection is established. When the message is finished playing or the connection has been broken, the machine dials the next number on its list and plays the message again.

Not only is this faster and more efficient than hiring someone to perform this task, but it lets companies save a lot of money on their calls as well since they don’t have to pay employees to sit there and perform the job.

Most robocalls provide only base details, attempting to entice the call recipient into returning the call at the provided number. Many people are turned off by robocalls so the turnover rate is likely very low; this explains why robocalls are becoming so common these days, since a low turnover rate requires a suitably high call volume to turn a profit.

Robocalls and the Do Not Call Registry

Obviously, robocalls are just the sort of thing that the “Do Not Call” registry was created to combat.

It stands to reason that robocall numbers should be dropping as more people sign up for the registry, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Statistics show that there were 2.6 billion robocalls to US numbers in May 2017 alone, showing an increase from the month before. Some of those called were on the “Do Not Call” registry but received the telemarketing calls anyway.

The FTC received 3.5 million complaints about robocalls in 2016, up 60% from the complaints received in 2015. It’s likely that 2017’s numbers will be another leap forward. The people making robocalls, especially those who use them as a part of telephone scams, simply do not seem to be concerned about the “Do Not Call” registry.

Why Is the Registry Not Working?

While the “Do Not Call” registry is a good idea in theory, the potential profit from robocalls is worth the risk of fines from the FTC.

Modern autodialers can be programmed with millions of numbers, and the calls they make cost less than a penny per call. If even one of those calls is successful in baiting a recipient then the profit made can pay for the entire operation. It’s worth the potential FTC backlash, especially since the risk of problems with the FTC is often fairly low.

Many companies that use robocallers operate outside of the U.S., limiting what the FTC can do to stop them. This doesn’t mean that the FTC is giving up, however, The government is trying to find new ways to combat robocalling, and is even trying to bring telecom companies in on the act… and holding them accountable for some of the activity on their networks.

It’s still an uphill battle, but the war against robocalls is far from over.