American consumers really hate robocalls. The FCC says automated calls are the number one source of their complaints.
However, that doesn’t change that it’s now legal for U.S. government agencies – including Congress – to use automated dialers to hit up your cell phone for official business. In fact, one of the groups that recently got a favorable ruling from the FCC on this issue provides tele-town hall services to Congress.
“We emphasize that … a call placed by a third-party agent will be immune from TCPA liability only where the call was placed pursuant to authority that was ‘validly conferred’ by the federal government, and the third party complied with the government’s instructions and otherwise acted within the scope of his or her agency, in accord with federal common-law principles of agency,” reads the ruling.
That means that while survey contractors and town hall vendors can now broadly use cell phone numbers on behalf of the federal government without fear, they’re still off-limits for, say, political campaign robocalls.
Town halls and accurate government surveys depend on reaching Americans by phone – and more than half have abandoned their landlines for cell-only, according to CDC research on mobile phone trends released last year.
Robocalls to cell phones aren’t just annoying, they are often grossly inefficient at reaching the right party. New laws allow creditors to call people who own a number even if they’re not the right party, which protects the vendors but not you and I from unwanted calls. Unlike the Verizon directory for landline directory assistance, there’s no official source for ownership changes to cell phones. And the richest data source – consumer credit card application data – is off-limits to the federal government for town hall and survey purposes (while it is available for debt collection).
That leaves agencies and vendors still scrambling to assemble the best possible phone lists from data append specialists that rely on consumer opt-in information.
It’s been just a few months since the FCC opened cell numbers to increased access by robo dialing. How long before there’s a more reliable way to reach the right parties?