On October 18, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission held its first annual Robocall Summit examining the technology, industry, and law relating to robocalls. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz opened the summit by identifying what he called a “growing problem” of robocalls, particularly those involving “debt relief” services. Noticeably absent was any discussion of political robocalls, as politicians have exempted their “sales” efforts from regulation.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The regulations are being outpaced by technology, and the FTC is unsure how to respond.
  • They are receiving tons of complaints on Robocalls and Caller ID Spoofing, and a lot of bad actors are difficult to catch, because it is easy to set up and tear down campaigns.
  • The FTC recognizes that there are a lot of good use cases for Robocalls and Caller ID spoofing.
  • The FTC wants to avoid “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” but if push comes to shove, they will err on the side of being aggressive.
  • The FTC announced a $50,000 challenge (at www.challenge.gov) to developers to come up with ways to reduce and block robocalls to landlines and mobile phones, while letting legitimate calls go through. This FTC “hackathon” equivalent will start October 25, 2012, and end January 17, 2013.

The FTC’s website on the Robocall Summit is available here with a transcript of the Summit and presentations. More information about the FTC’s challenge is available here.