Nearly 750,000 Consumers Call On Phone Companies to Stop Unwanted Robocalls

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Consumer Reports Poll: Consumers Extremely Frustrated With Robocalls, Half Would Switch Carriers for Effective Call-Blocking Protection

Consumers are sick and tired of being harassed by robocalls and anxious for the phone companies to deliver real relief.

Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, announced today that nearly 750,000 consumers have joined the group’s End Robocalls campaign to get the top phone companies to offer their customers free call-blocking protection. Today’s announcement was coupled with the release of a Consumer Reports poll finding that customers of the top phone companies are deeply frustrated with robocalls and that a large number would switch their phone service to carriers that offered effective solutions to block unwanted calls.

It also comes at a time when the telecommunications industry-led Robocall Strike Force has been meeting to develop plans for improving call-blocking technologies. The Strike Force has pledged to issue a report and plan that includes a concrete timeline for when the companies will make existing call-blocking technologies even better.    

“Consumers are sick and tired of being harassed by robocalls and anxious for the phone companies to deliver real relief,” said Tim Marvin, who manages Consumers Union’s End Robocalls campaign. “As the Robocall Strike Force works on longer term efforts to combat unwanted calls, the phone companies should start offering the best call-blocking tools currently available and make sure that all of their customers get the protection they deserve.”

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received over 3.5 million complaints from consumers fed up with unwanted calls. Almost half of these calls occurred after the consumer requested that the caller stop contacting them. Robocalls have become so rampant that complaints about violations of the Do Not Call registry doubled between 2010 and 2015. Robocalls are often used by crooks to defraud consumers. Phone scams result in an estimated $350 million in financial losses for Americans annually.

The latest Consumer Reports subscriber survey on telecommunications providers found that frustration with robocalls among traditional landline and VOIP service customers of the top phone companies is high:

  • 77 percent of AT&T customers, 76 percent of CenturyLink customers, and 79 percent of Verizon customers strongly agreed that robocalls are a problem.
  • 68 percent of AT&T customers, 62 percent of CenturyLink customers, and 71 percent of Verizon customers reported receiving six or more robocalls per week. 41 percent of AT&T customers, 34 percent of CenturyLink customers, and 45 percent of Verizon customers reported receiving more than 10 robocalls per week. Respondents did not indicate whether all of the robocalls were received on their traditional landline or VOIP phone service.    
  • 53 percent of AT&T customers, 54 percent of CenturyLink customers, and 49 percent of Verizon customers said they would be very likely or extremely likely to switch to a new phone company if it offered free tools or services that block robocalls from reaching their homes.    

The phone companies have argued that the Robocall Strike Force must first find a solution to Caller ID fraud -- when crooks transmit incorrect Caller ID information to trick consumers into answering their phone -- before they can offer call-blocking tools to their customers. But Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has repeatedly made clear that the phone companies work on call verification should not delay them from offering robocall solutions now.

“Consumers have waited long enough for relief and they are counting on the phone companies to take action,” said Marvin. “While no robocall solution will be 100 percent effective, it’s clear that the phone companies could be doing so much more today to stop these nuisance calls.”

Consumers Union can connect reporters with consumers frustrated with being harassed by robocalls. For more information, contact mmccauley(at)consumer(dot)org.

Methodology:
Findings are based on responses to the Fall 2015 Consumer Reports subscriber questionnaire, in which over 160,000 consumers reported on their experiences with home internet, cable TV, and telephone service providers as well as bundled plans and robocalls. These findings reflect the experiences of Consumer Reports subscribers who self-selected into a survey about telecommunications, who may not be representative of the U.S. population or Consumer Reports subscribers in general.
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Consumers Union is the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. Consumers Union works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications

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Michael McCauley