By Jay Innes, Director of Business Development
In a past life I was a journalist absorbed in all levels of Canadian politics. It didn’t take long to get a sense of the cynicism around personal accountability, transparency and the effective use of all available levers of power. In the early days I learned that bad news and political appointments are best released on the Friday before a long weekend. Also, hot topics are best pushed off to languish in committee rooms. Similar to shielding behind an issue that is before the courts, individuals entrusted with handling a media firestorm can wash their hands by passing the buck to a committee.
That cynicism was undermined on July 10 when U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill chaired a hearing to look at the problem of robocalls and the harm done to consumers. Free of many of the generalities and purposeful “ragging of the puck” (killing the clock!) that I witnessed during years of committee hearings, I sat openmouthed as the Senator and her colleagues delved into the robocall problem and drilled industry groups, associations and the corporate world. Transfixed when I should have been tackling a mountain of “to-do” items in advance of the launch of Privatis Technology Corporation, I realized I had been handed industry and government approved research and insights on the robocall problem that would support our business case for providing anonymized communications supported by robust autodialer blocking technologies.
The material that emerged from the presentations and interactions will provide fodder for many future Privatis blogs but here are seven highlights:
- A Decade of Fighting: It has been 10 years since the Do Not Call Registry was established in the U.S.
- ‘til Death Do Us Part: 2.5 million weddings annually in the US make for a $40 billion industry, equal to the $40 billion that telemarketing fraud costs U.S. consumers each year.
- Not Even My 2 Cents: Telemarketers can place robocalls for less than one cent per minute.
- How Angry Must You Be To Pick Up the Phone? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives more than 200,000 complaints about robocalls per month; the top consumer complaint.
- Double Trouble: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) (Yes, a different agency!) indicates that robocall complaints have more than doubled in the two years from 2010 and 2012.
- More than a Dinner Disruption: One witness described how robocalls to first responders and hospital telephone lines can threaten legitimate calls — making robocalls a life-and-death concern.
- Canada is a Leader: “We shouldn’t be ten years behind Canada on this, where a robocall filtering service is already available,” said Senator McCaskill.
Near the end of the hearing, Senator McCaskill pointedly called on the corporate world to deliver a solution to the robocall problem and reaffirmed that technology holds the key to combat all these harassing telemarketers and fraudsters.
I believed what I was hearing…..and seeing.
A couple summer hours dedicated to watching a U.S. Senate committee had the same impact as ingesting a case of Red Bull. The Privatis team was energized to march toward the official launch date.