Editorial: Robocalls are unwanted intrusion
The phone rings. You know who it is. No, wait. You know what it is.
It’s not a friend asking you to lunch. It’s not a neighbor asking to borrow your lawnmower. It’s probably not even your pharmacy reminding you that your prescription is ready.
There is an ever-increasing likelihood that when your phone rings, it isn’t someone you know. It isn’t someone who knows you. It isn’t someone at all.
It’s a robocall — an autodialed communication that pulled your number from a database and connected you to either a recorded message or a simulation of a call that analyzes your words and responds with a preprogrammed set of answers.
Isn’t technology wonderful?
Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Wolf signed changes to the Telemarketer Registration Act that will eliminate a requirement for telephone customers to renew participation in the Pennsylvania do-not-call registry every five years. It will also allow businesses to opt out of the list.
And that is great. It’s just not enough.
Robocalls are the ultimate expression of the idea that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.
No one wants to get a robocall — with the very rare exception of that notice from your pharmacy about a prescription, or a message from your kid’s school about a snow day. But both of those instances are probably handled with text messages or emails, too.
No one really trusts a robocall. So many are electronic voices that don’t just offer you a fabulous timeshare experience in Las Vegas. No, they’re threatening you with an arrest warrant if you don’t settle a mythical IRS debt by sending the PIN numbers for $2,000 in Target gift cards. (And why is it always Target gift cards?)
Robocalls are intrusive and intimidating. They can leave you feeling annoyed at best and alarmed at worst. They are a cheap but horribly inefficient form of advertising because they are intrinsically identified with sketchy scams.
So why can’t we do more about them than just making a list of who shouldn’t be called?
The state and the Federal Communications Commission should be requiring more of the effort be on the side of the callers than the recipient. They should be making it easy for customers to not just ask not to receive calls but to find a way to effectively block them.
Because we all get robocalls, and we all wish we didn’t.