US carriers have been slow to react to the growing spam call epidemic — and it's hurting consumer trust (VZ, TMUS)


US wireless carriers Verizon and T-Mobile are working to take control of the growing spam and robocall epidemic for their mobile customers.  

Almost Half of Mobile Calls Will Be Scams in 2019

  • Verizon is deploying the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID technology to its network to help customers identify and handle unwanted robocalls. It also began offering its Call Filter spam and robocall protection service for free; previously, it was a $3 per month add-on.
  • T-Mobile expanded its Caller Verified feature, which alerts customers to likely scam calls, to seven additional smartphone models. The feature, which also uses STIR/SHAKEN protocols, was initially launched in January 2019 on the Samsung Galaxy S9 lineup.

Here’s what it means: Verizon and T-Mobile are recognizing that the spam and robocall epidemic is a much bigger — and growing — issue than they initially thought.

  • Robocalls are becoming more common. Nearly 48 billion robocalls were made in 2018, which is a 57% increase over 2017, according to third-party robocall-blocking software company YouMail.  
  • Scam calls are growing their share of total calls in the US. Scam calls are predicted to account for almost half (45%) of all calls made to US mobile numbers in 2019, up from just under one-third (29%) in 2018 and 4% in 2017, according to First Orion.
  • Consumers are getting vocal about the issue. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that consumers filed more than 4.5 million robocall complaints in 2017, marking a 33% increase from 3.4 million the prior year. And we expect there were even more complaints in 2018, with 2019 likely to follow suit given that these calls are becoming more prominent.
  • The FCC is taking action. The FTC announced this month that it’d shut down four large-scale automatic dialing and robocalling operations that were responsible for billions of unwanted calls each year. And in December, the FCC voted to classify text messages as an information service to help carriers better protect consumers from fraudulent or unwanted text messages.

The bigger picture: How carriers have handled robocalls is another example of them being slow to react to issues, a trend that could ultimately hurt how they’re viewed by consumers.

They’ve also been slow to respond to data privacy issues. In January 2019, it was revealed that real-time location data from carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, had found its way into the hands of bounty hunters via location data aggregators.

After the report, carriers announced that they’d stop working with these firms. However, many of them enacted timelines for doing away with the practice, leaving room for more issues to occur. US wireless carriers risk losing their customers’ trust by not being proactive in implementing steps to address issues that hurt their subscribers.


SEE ALSO: T-Mobile is outpacing the rest of the Big Four US carriers on value, loyalty, and satisfaction — here’s what consumers say is most important when selecting a mobile provider

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