Monday, December 17, 2012

Ban ‘robocalls’

Everyone I know hates automated telemarketing phonecalls, better known as “robocalls”. Here in New Zealand, we don’t get them during political campaigns, and only rarely for other marketing. However, I’ve been getting three or four a week (from the same people) for several weeks, and I absolutely hate, loathe and despise them. I think robocalls should be outlawed.

Here’s a little fact about me: I’ve never bought anything marketed to me on a cold-call phone call. Nor do I donate to any charity that uses telemarketers. The reason for the first is that I can’t trust that they’re legitimate, and the reason for the second is that the telemarketing company takes a cut—sometimes the vast majority—of every dollar raised. If I think it’s a good charity, I’ll make a direct donation so they get all the money, not just a portion.

The calls I’ve been getting are hawking life insurance, which I think must be some sort of scam: No legitimate insurance company would use robocalls that begin with an ominous voice warning, “this is an important message for all New Zealanders”. Um, no, it isn’t at all important—it’s a bloody nuisance, is what it really is, a pointless intrusion into my day.

I always used to hang up the minute I heard, “This is an important…”. Then, I let the message play in the hope it would cost them money and a real-live operator would come on and have to determine that I was ignoring them. But, the calls are probably free or nearly so, and they don’t have real people, just a prompt to dial 1 for more information.

So, today I thought I’d dial that one and tell them to stop calling me. I got another recording telling me to leave my name and address, and to speak slowly and clearly. Yeah, that sounds totally legitimate.

So, speaking VERY slowly, dragging out each syllable, I told them to stop robocalling me and that if they didn’t I’d bill them for $30 per half second. I made that number up on the spot. Later, for my own amusement, I decided on a legal-sounding script I’m going to use when they call again, as they certainly will.

New Zealand has a completely voluntary “Do Not Call List”, but only members of the marketing association (whatever it’s called—I’ve forgotten, and don’t really care, to be honest) can use it, and even then it’s completely voluntary. Put another way, it’s total bullshit.

I think that New Zealand should enact a REAL, mandatory “Do Not Call List” that all telemarketers must use, without exception.

I also want robocalls banned. The reason I want them banned is that no machine should be able to disturb one’s life without the real live human recipient having any recourse. When I get a telemarketing call from a real human, I’ll politely tell him or her that I’m not interested, and then I hang up. They seldom ring again. But a robocall provides no such option, no way to complain apart from being a smart-arse to their voicemail, something they’re sure to ignore. And there’s something about a recorded hawker that’s just automatically many times more annoying than a real human.

The current government hates any regulation of business and will never do anything to make life better for ordinary consumers. So, there will be no mandatory “Do Not Call List”. Robocalls will also not be banned.

At least I’ll have plenty of opportunity to amuse myself by being a smart-arse to some scammy company’s voicemail.


d said...

We...just don't answer our phone. :) No one we know is going to call us in the evening, and if we do know them, we can pick up once they leave a message.

Arthur Schenck said...

Or, you could also join the growing number of Kiwis who, like their American cousins, abandoned a landline for a cellphone. Robocalls don't call cellphones because they have to pay for that, and far more than for calling a landline.

Roger Owen Green said...

Even with the Do Not Call in the US, there are plenty of exceptions, inc any entity to which you have had a relationship. So if I gave money to someone four years ago, and they keep calling me, that wouldn't be included on the ban.

amerinz's sis said...

The Do Not Call List here is just a pacifier. I kept a detailed log of telemarketer calls, most of them wanting credit card information,and sent a copy to our appropriate government officials. It's supposedly their job to deal with these matters, or that's what they tell us. But they also tell us that most of the callers are "off shore" so they can't stop them.

Telemarketing calls are bad, but spoofing calls are even worse. Nowadays, I don't pick up the phone if I don't recognize the number. Like d (above) said, if someone wants to, they can leave a message. Then I can decide if I want to respond or not.

Arthur Schenck said...

Roger: Actually, I don't have a problem with people I've actually dealt with calling—it's the scammy anonymous ones that I can't stand. But since I don't buy things from telemarketers or give charitable donations to telemarketers, this wouldn't be a problem for me.

Sis: We had a spate of calls telling people that their computer had viruses and they needed to log into a site to fix it (it was a scam, of course). But we don't get many spoofing or phishing calls in New Zealand, maybe because we're a small country? I don't know, but authorities often warn people about telemarketing scams (and the government maintains a website list of ones it knows about), so maybe we're just more wary.

As for the Do Not Call List, we hardly ever get calls, so it's not that big a deal. Robocalls are another matter altogether!