There’s New Hope to Block Annoying ‘Robocalls’
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There’s New Hope to Block Annoying ‘Robocalls’

Chris Hughson of Portland, Oregon, was so fed up with receiving unwanted phone calls from telemarketers that he began filing lawsuits against auto-dialers.

He has filed more than 20 of them so far, the most recent one earlier this month, according to an article by The Oregonian. “People don’t want these robocalls on their cellphones,” he told the newspaper. “They’re annoying.”

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Hughson isn’t the only one for whom robocalls, which are mainly used by political campaigns, charities and also scammers, constitute a major annoyance. The Federal Trade Commission receives about 300,000 complaints about unwanted robocalls every month, and efforts to curb the number of robocalls you receive haven’t exactly been successful.

Computers can dial phone numbers much faster, from anywhere in the world, and despite the Do No Call Registry having been around for more than 10 years, the number of complaints has spiked over the past five to six years.

Several new initiatives have launched to try to address this problem again.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, launched a new campaign earlier this year to end robocalls. It has called on major phone carriers to offer customers free tools to block unwanted calls.

“By putting intense consumer pressure on the phone companies and government, and pushing for improved technology, we can end illegal robocalls,” wrote the group on its website.  As of Monday, more than 298,000 consumers had signed the petition.

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New software to block unwanted calls is starting to emerge, particularly following the FTC Robocall Challenge, a program from two years ago that awarded $50,000 to two software designers to fully develop systems to intercept and filter out illegal prerecorded calls.

One robocall-blocking option that came out of that challenge is Nomorobo. Although the technology seems quite efficient, only a limited number of consumers have access to the service since phone carriers aren’t yet working with it, according to Consumers Union.

“Technology exists that can stop illegal robocalls before they reach you, but few consumers have access to it,” said the consumer advocacy group on its campaign website. “The major phone companies are dragging their feet claiming they can’t legally block calls to most landlines, offering blocking only to certain Internet-based phone customers.”

Phone companies have said it can be difficult to efficiently stop robocalls, especially considering that callers can easily change phone numbers if one they use is blocked. They also worry that a blocking software could stop a legitimate robocall, such as a public safety announcement.

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