FTC rolls out new interactive robocall data site

Photo (c) baona - Getty Images

The end value for the consumer is only added awareness, not any extra help in fighting off robocallers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced an upgrade in its Do Not Call (DNC) initiative. Specifically, the agency is making its data collection “more transparent and easier for consumers to use” thanks to a new interactive site

“The page allows consumers to search the data interactively, for example, by clicking on a specific state or county. The information will be updated quarterly,” wrote the FTC in its announcement. 

Does this help fight robocalls?

Consumers should note that the FTC does not chase down, jail, or sue robocallers. This new tool is just that -- an interface where consumers can take a look-see on robocall trends like calls made to their home state, the theme of the robocalls -- such as health insurance or a credit check -- whether the calls were live or recorded, and the types of calls that are generating the most complaints. 

As an example, in June 2019, consumers filed 407,470 robo-related complaints with the FTC; topping the list on South Carolina’s robo-plague chart were calls regarding reducing debt. 

If you’re keeping score at home, save yourself some hand-wringing. What the FTC reports and what other data collectors are compiling is not apples-to-apples. The FTC has categories like “imposters” -- which could cover any number of things -- whereas the monthly data ConsumerAffairs typically reports from YouMail doesn’t have an “imposter” category. The reason? The FTC’s metrics are based on complaints from consumers and YouMail’s are based on data its phone app collects.

Who do I complain to?

In typical government fashion, the left hand -- the FTC -- doesn’t appear to know what the right hand -- the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -- is doing in regards to robocalls.

The FTC continues to suggest that consumers register their phone number with its Do Not Call registry and/or file a complaint via its automated Complaint Assistant. However, the FTC says that it "cannot resolve individual complaints, but can provide information about what steps to take to protect yourself.”

At the same time, the FCC also wants to hear consumers’ complaints about robocalls; it’s asking consumers to file their complaints on its site.

So, who should a consumer complain to?

When ConsumerAffairs chatted with an FTC representative, they were unaware of the FCC complaint process. When asked what good it does for a consumer to file a complaint with the FTC when it says it can’t resolve complaints, the answer was that a consumer complaint “may help us and our law enforcement partners detect patterns of fraud and abuse, which may lead to investigations and eliminate unfair business practices.”

The short answer? If a consumer has the time and inclination to file complaints with both the FTC and the FCC, it can’t hurt. Rolling this robo ball uphill is a struggle, but every little bit of consumer-side input might help the U.S. eventually end this intrusion once and for all.

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