ACA International, the association of credit and collection professionals, is raising concerns over the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to encourage technology that will reroute some legitimate and valuable telephone calls.
The FTC in March announced two contests challenging the public to develop a crowd-sourced "honeypot" to lure and analyze what they deem to be robocalls. According to the FTC, "the challenges are part of the FTC’s long-term multi-pronged effort to combat illegal robocallers."
Contestants for the new technology competed for a $25,000 prize and one winner was announced last week.
The winning technology, called RoboKiller, works on both landline and mobile phones and uses audio-fingerprint technology to identify calls with computerized voices and forwards them to the honeypot and away from the consumer. A runner-up using similar audio analytics received a $10,500 prize.
Ethan Garr and Bryan Moyles created RoboKiller, which relies on universally available call forwarding that works on both landline and mobile phones, and uses audio-fingerprint technology to identify robocalls.
The app makers assert that the technology will block robocalls and claim that their technology is useful because "automated telemarketing and scam calls facilitate fraud and identity theft." The FTC claims that the app will block illegal robocalls. However, neither the FTC nor the app maker explain how legal, legitimate calls using automated voice technology will not become ensnared in the honeypot of illegal calls.
ACA International believes that the app appears to not understand important distinctions between calling scams or unwanted solicitations and legitimate, non-solicitation, informational calls that provide necessary, expected and desired information to existing business customers. Such informational calls include financial alerts, utility service updates, upcoming travel information and payment reminders. Blocking such legitimate, informational calls is inconvenient and, at times, harmful to consumers, ACA International points out.
"Once again, the term 'robocall' is used overbroadly here," said Patrick J. Morris, CEO of ACA International. "Robocalls are calls made by machines that dial random or sequential numbers to reach as many people as possible to scam or solicit business. Many legitimate businesses attempting to reach a specific person with whom they have an existing business relationship may use modern calling technology to reach their customers effectively and efficiently. It is easy to see how those calls could be swept up in this app. It is unfair to presume that just because a company uses modern calling technology that the call is somehow illegal or unwanted."