It’s 7:30 p.m. in the Tallarico household, dinner is on the table and the landline rings. “Don’t answer it!” is shouted throughout the house. Phew, a near tragedy avoided. But it made me ask, “Would we have reacted differently if my mobile phone rang?” The answer is absolutely not.
We have all become conditioned that if we do not recognize the caller ID, we do not answer the phone—whether mobile or landline. The industry I work in develops technology that enables automated outbound communications or, as some mistakenly call it, “robocalls.” My industry has been accused in the press of developing software that can dial a billion calls a millisecond, and have the technology to ring your phone at the most inconvenient time possible . . . with annoying irrelevant content (or so many think). Yet in reality, we’re looking to provide consumers with the information they need from companies they are already working with, in the manner in which they prefer to interact.
This debate was front and center for me last week. In Washington DC I, along with others from verticals including the retail, finance, travel & hospitality industries to name a few, met with representatives and several key legislators regarding HR3035, or the Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011. HR3035 is about modernization. Consumer advocates cannot ignore the fact that landline phones are being unplugged at an accelerated rate. More than one in four U.S. homes now only have a wireless phone. Consumers increasingly are providing their mobile number to companies as the preferred point of contact. We hear over and over again how individuals would have taken action on a variety of issues had they been informed. Yet our industry has its hands tied because automatic dialers and messaging systems cannot be used, and manual dialing cannot handle the volume of calls that need to be placed.
After I left DC, I flew to the Financial Services Collections and Credit Risk Conference to speak on a panel titled TCPA – What’s Legal, What’s Not. We are an industry that understands the essential role of clear and unambiguous regulation. The Obama Administration agrees, based on the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction, and Congress understands the importance of responsible use of technology. HR3035 is a step in the right direction and I believe SoundBite will continue its journeys to the Hill garnering support for the measure.
For all those trying to scare the public with rhetoric like “your mobile number will be trapped and telemarketers will now have you in their tight grip,” remember this: HR3035 has nothing to do with sales and marketing calls. Those are, and will remain, strictly prohibited without express written consent. Let’s get with the times; residential landlines are going the way of 8-track-tapes. Regulations need to be modernized.