MORE THAN 48 billion robo-calls were made in this country in 2018. That comes out to more than 140 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Sometimes, it seems we get that many in a week.

Most of the robo firms that aren’t actively trying to pick our pockets are simply annoying, gnats we keep swatting, knowing they’ll be back soon.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, along with the attorneys general of every other U.S. state plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam, want to do something about it. They’re urging the U.S. Senate to enact the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

The legislation, which has bipartisan (and, we hope, universal) support, would require voice service providers to be part of a “call authentication framework” and “create an interagency working group to take additional actions to reduce robo-calls and hold telemarketers and robo-callers accountable,” according to a release from Herring’s office.

This sounds a little vague and difficult to enforce, but we wish them all the luck in the world. We hope whatever Congress comes up with works better than the Do Not Call Registry, which started in 2003. Its real name should be the Do Not Call Unless Registry …

  • Unless it’s a political call, a charitable call, a debt collection call, an informational call or a telephone survey call.
  • Unless it’s from a company with which you have done previous business.
  • Unless the company just decides to hell with the rules and takes the chance that it will only get the occasional fine.

Trying to get a persistent robo-pest to stop calling is a fool’s errand. If one presses the button to get taken off the call list or speak to a live representative, all this does is make it more likely the same company will keep calling.

The Federal Trade Commission urges annoyed robo-call targets to file complaints, and they do. The FTC says it gets 19,000 complaints every day from Do Not Call registrants. It has brought 33 cases against robo-callers since robo-calling was banned in 2009. Defendants have been ordered to pay some $330 million in civil penalties.

So far, the FTC has collected about $19 million. It apparently is easy for a robo-calling company to suddenly and mysteriously go broke. It’s obvious to anyone with a phone that the upside of robo-calling outweighs the occasional slap on the wrist.

There were a quarter of a million full-time telemarketers in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number likely has not shrunk. It’s going to take legislation with pretty strong teeth to take a bite out of all the aggravation an industry this big sends our way.

It would seem that the TRACED Act would be a no-brainer for our elected representatives in Washington. Surely both the MAGA crowd and the Trump despisers can agree on this one.

Load comments