One of the stories that caught my eye this week that I found kind of interesting was a debate over whether Congress should lift a ban allowing companies to auto-dial cell phone users, mostly for telemarketing purposes although there’s debate over whether it could flow into other arenas such as collections and pretty much any avenue where companies have computers do the dialing instead of representatives doing it themselves.
And I know that it’s not going to be a popular opinion, but I’m actually ok with this.
People have always been touchy about getting calls on their cell phones, dating way back to when we only had 100 minute plans and they still costed upwards of $50/month! What’s weird is that despite getting better plans – I’ve got one of Verizon’s smallest family plans and we still didn’t go through half of our minutes due to Mobile-to-Mobile ratings, etc… – not to mention the fact that more and more households are either switching from their landline phones over to VoIP or even just dropping them altogether in favor of going entirely wireless, folks still get really bent out of shape when they receive unsolicited calls on their mobile … as if it’s costing them $2.95/minute or something.
I guess my thing is, in this day and age when wireless technologies are dwarfing those of yesteryear, I just don’t think it’s fair to stonewall businesses by telling them that there’s just no way to reach their customers via voice if they don’t have a dated landline phone. Also, lest we not forget – many companies are already doing it anyways because I don’t know about your experience, but mine has sure proven that Do Not Call List to be just about useless and filing a “complaint” with the FCC does little more than get you a 15-page “incident report” in your mailbox a month after “reporting a violator.”
What needs to happen is two-fold – first, this silly ban on calling cell phones should be lifted because like most laws, only the good guys are following it anyways. Then for part two, cell phone carriers need to adopt better policies for allowing customers to blacklist offending numbers who continually harass them, much like most VoIP providers let their customers do today. I used to get all sorts of solicitation calls on the VoIP line that now serves as our home phone until one lazy afternoon I downloaded a history of all our incoming calls for the last couple of months and just starting banning them left and right when I found that they were calling at all hours of the day…
Now of course, that’s not to say that every consumer is going to be as initiated or tech savvy to go through all of that, which is why you build up a repository much like most decent e-mail providers (like Gmail) do for filtering spam – rules are built by various complaints flagged by thousands of users, and as a result millions enjoy the benefits of a shared blacklist of businesses who do more harm than good with their auto-dialers.
I think it’s a solution where both parties need to meet in the middle – consumers need to admit that cell phones aren’t any more “special” than landline phones anymore, and likewise businesses must understand that if these legal floodgates are opened, they’re going to find their calls never going through just like the billions of pieces of spam that fallout long before reaching an end user’s mailbox if they don’t act responsibly.