Well here it is, the podcast you’ve been waiting for.
YouMail’s “Robocall Index” is cited by everyone–and I mean everyone–as the source of data related to the purported uptick in “robocalls” since 2015. Here’s a short list of what “everyone” looks like (in no particular order):
- Business Insider
- USA Today
- The New York Times
- The Washington Post
- Slate Magazine
- Money Magazine
- Arizona Daily Sun
- Casper Star Tribune
- Idaho Statesman
- Huffington Post
- WWBT NBC 12
- Fox 61 (CT)
- New Hampshire Business Review
- 24/7 Wall Street
Each of these stories declares, in some form or fashion, that robocalls are on the rise. I cautioned a few weeks back that without knowing what the “robocall index” is actually tracking, however, these media outlets might be spreading “fake news.”
More problematically, the NCLC and other “pro-consumer” groups have begun “unmasking” the numbers listed on YouMail’s “robocall index” and declaring that legitimate American businesses are to blame for the majority of robocalls plaguing the country. The NCLC even provided a chart to the FCC purporting to list the “Top 20” robocallers in the country–virtually all of them legitimate American businesses presumably making calls to reach their customers about existing accounts. Once again, however, without understanding what the “Robocall Index” is actually tracking, jumping to the conclusion that these calls are actually unwanted “robocalls” seems problematic–especially since the NCLC’s own FCC comment noted that a large percentage of the so-called “robocalls” were account reminders and other desired forms of contact. And ironically, as Numeracle’s CEO Rebekah Johnson told the Ramble podcast two weeks ago, mislabeling legitimate calls as robocalls or scam calls actually works profound anti-consumer effects.
All of this has lead here. YouMail’s CEO Alex Quilici–who is nothing short of brilliant–agreed to sit down with the Czar and the team IN STUDIO in the Womble Bond Dickinson West Coast Podcast Studio and get to the bottom of this. He deftly and honestly discussed the methodology behind the “Robocall Index” including the various assumptions that go into compiling the index. As Mr Quilici explains, the index is actually an extrapolation of robocall volume based upon a set of data collected by the call-blocking app maker based upon its own customer’ experiences. In his revealing interview, Mr. Quilici confirms that the “robocall” index includes desired calls–including payment alerts and reminder messages–that are not commonly blocked by consumers. He also distanced himself and YouMail from third parties that rely on the “robocall index” to advance their own agendas.
Listen to the interview (found here) to learn:
-What does the robocall index really track?
-How can YouMail identify robocalls anyway?
-What assumptions are built in to the extrapolation?
-Are there any industry standards for what a robocall is and isn’t?
-Are there any industry standards for call blocking at all?
-What assumptions does YouMail make regarding the types of calls that consumers do and do not want?
-Does the robocall index include wanted calls, account alerts and other desired communications?
-What steps is YouMail taking to refine the robocall index to make it more accurate?
-Does YouMail stand behind the representations made by third parties respecting the identity of robocallers?
-Given the power that YouMail and other app manufacturers wield in determining whether or not consumers answer calls what steps does YouMail take to make sure it doesn’t inaccurately identify and block calls?
The interview is absolutely required listening for anyone relying on the robocall index and we’ll probably submit a transcript to the FCC for consideration.
Before we get to the interview, however, you’ll also enjoy the team breaking down the big TCPA news of the week, including the new Few case, a case about a cute little kitten, and the “big bust” FCC oversight hearing. (Sorry for the head fake on that one.) We also give Ocwen a round of applause for its big win in Keyes v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, No. 17-cv-11492, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138445, at *15 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 16, 2018). The case finds that an Aspect predictive dialer system is not an ATDS as a matter of law. Now that’s big news!