American Consequences - June 2019

“Likely impacted by the financial market volatility caused by the trade tensions, purchase application volume declined for the week,” said MBA senior vice president Mike Fratantoni. “Potential homebuyers may be more cautious given the heightened economic uncertainty.” The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to make it easier to protect yourself from robocalls... The plan, passed in early June, authorizes carriers to automatically identify and block unwanted robocalls. Rather than just blocking a phone number, carriers could use analytics and data to pinpoint things like a sudden burst of calls from a single source. Ultimately, the goal is to slow the tsunami of robocalls to home and mobile phones in recent years. This May alone, there were 4.7 billion robocalls, and that’s out of nearly 25 billion in the U.S. so far this year, according to YouMail, a call-blocking company. By YouMail’s numbers, there were 48 billion robocalls in 2018, up from 31 billion the year before. The FCC’s plan would allow phone companies to block calls without gaining permission from subscribers. (It does not require companies to inform customers either.) Companies may be required to provide enough information for customers to decide whether to stay in or opt out, but it’s too soon to know what that would look like. The end of robocalls?

Some experts warn that nuisance and illegal callers may still find a way to get through, which the FCC acknowledges. Phone companies overseas won’t be required to take advantage of the FCC’s call-blocking systems and consumers could face fees for using them. Calls originating from overseas could present a technical challenge. So far, carriers are on board but cautious. A spokesman for telecom giant Verizon said the company was “encouraged” by the plan. The company says it intends to use its new authority “to more effectively protect our customers from robocalls.” AT&T sounded less convinced... Although the carrier says it’s determined to “offer our customers best-in-class tools to combat unlawful robocalls,” there are concerns... One sticking point is the need for protection against being punished for blocking calls that don’t deserve to be intercepted... and that the call blocking may not distinguish illegal telemarketing and scams from calls the subscriber wants, like from their pharmacy or bank. As YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a recent interview, “Grandma doesn’t get her prescription and something bad happens to her? That’s catastrophic.” In the end, fewer robocalls are a good thing. And the FCC’s efforts to address nuisance calls may ultimately lead to a service where grandma can still get her medicine without also being scammed for her savings.

American Consequences

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