Report: R.I. residents received over 59M robocalls in 2017

PROVIDENCE – Feel like you are getting more phone calls lately where you answer, there’s a pause and a prerecorded message starts delivering a pitch?

It’s not your imagination, especially not in Rhode Island, where such calls increased 30 percent in February compared with February 2017, more than the nationwide average of a 24 percent increase year over year in February, according to the YouMail Robocall Index.

Residents in the Ocean State got more than 59 million robocalls last year, according to a National Consumer Law Center press release.

“This data illustrates a rapid expansion of the use of robocall technology and the toll these abusive calls take on Rhode Island consumers,” said Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center, based in Boston.

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According to Saunders’ organization, in February, Cox Communications, Ally Financial, Synchrony Bank and Verizon were among the top 10 robocallers to Rhode Island numbers.

Complaints about such violations of the “Do Not Call” registry, however, are also on the rise.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Biennial Report to Congress this year showed an uptick in complaints, 4.5 million filed in 2017 compared with 3.4 million filed in 2016, according to Saunders’ group, with more than 26,000 in Rhode Island.

“Critics seeking to gut the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s] protections against robocalls claim the law leads to frivolous lawsuits,” said Saunders in a press release.

“On the contrary, the overwhelming number of robocall violations go unchecked, with even the most conservative estimates showing a 1000-to-1 ratio of complaints to government agencies as compared to lawsuits filed. And that does not even account for the tens of millions of illegal robocalls to consumers who do not file complaints or lawsuits.”

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission held a March 23 policy forum, “Fighting the Scourge of Illegal Robocalls.”

“Rather than petition the FCC for exemptions that weaken robocall protections, companies should focus on following the rules,” said Saunders. “Maintaining a strong [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] will benefit consumers and level the playing field for law-abiding businesses.”

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.