AT&T, the second-largest provider of mobile telephone services in the United States, has announced a new service called “AT&T Call Protect.” According to a press release from the telecommunications company, the “free network-based service gives eligible AT&T wireless customers...more control over unwanted calls on their smartphones” and “harnesses the power of the AT&T network to give customers automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam call warnings.”

Consumers are able to sign up for the service through their AT&T accounts. The company is also releasing an app called “AT&T Call Protect,” which gives consumers the ability to temporarily block calls before they even reach a consumer’s phone and gives people “spam warnings” about some calls.

Jeff Bradley, AT&T’s Senior Vice President of Device and Network Services Marketing, is quoted in the press release as follows:

“Nuisance calls are an industry-wide problem that unfortunately affect many people...We’ve listened to our customers and know they want a network that provides tools to proactively assist in blocking nuisance calls. AT&T Call Protect, along with others, will help put customers more in control of the calls they receive.”

insideARM Perspective

This is a negative development for the ARM industry, and will make it more difficult for firms to contact consumers if they’re targeted as a “nuisance” caller by AT&T or a consumer, regardless of the legitimacy of a call. Similar services are being offered by other telecommunications companies, including Sprint’s “Premium Caller ID” and Charter Communications’s partnership offering of “Nomorobo.”

Collection firms continue to face challenges communicating with consumers. That challenge will be exacerbated as more companies provide ways to allow their customers to block calls from targeted numbers. 

insideARM suggest that ARM companies will need to more closely track calling data to determine which numbers are ineffective. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has also been looking closely at the issue of robocalls in recent months. According to the FCC, robocalls are their number one source of complaints and have “become a plague to U.S. consumers.” Unfortunately, legitimate calls from legitimate ARM businesses have been lumped into the broad, highly inflammatory caetegory of "robocalls."

That said, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will be stepping down on January 20, 2017, as previously covered by insideARM. There will potentially be a change in direction for the FCC when his replacement’s tenure begins. Such a change could affect federal policy towards the definition of "robocalls" and the ARM industry in general. It would be helpful for the industry to develop a system for tracking data to document the impact of this latest technology.

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