Nearly every American with a cellphone has had it happen to them. You receive a call from an unknown number with an automated message pitching refinance options for the loan you don’t have, or consolidation options for the student loan you already paid off.

In a new report released by Hiya, a Seattle-based spam-monitoring service, it was found that approximately 26.3 billion robocalls were placed to U.S. phone numbers last year – a 46 percent increase from the 18 billion placed in 2017.  More disturbingly, one report projected that at least half of all cellphone calls in 2019 could be spam.

Automated phone calls can be a cost-efficient and incredibly effective mechanism for the many businesses that have legitimate purposes for using them, such as delivery services, banks, and mortgage services.  However, the inconceivable number of illegitimate and unwanted spam robocalls is causing Americans to not answer about half of all cellphone calls according to Hiya, thus causing Americans to miss important calls and creating a difficult challenge for legitimate users as well as regulators and phone carriers.

In its report, Hiya analyzed activity from 450,000 users of its app to identify the scope of robocalling and how those receiving the calls responded to them.  In a month’s worth of data, Hiya found that each of its app users reported an average of 10 unwanted robocalls.  An average of 60 calls per user were from unrecognized numbers or numbers not linked to a recipient’s address book.

While spam robocalling may not be going away any time soon, federal regulators have taken notice of the 52,000 consumer complaints about caller ID spoofing in 2018 and have moved to adopt rules to facilitate the rollout of new technologies to combat these calls.  Multiple cell phone carriers have pledged to implement caller authentication services that follow the same principles as website encryption.  The goal of the new protocol is to limit the effects of caller ID spoofing such as when a spammer poses as a caller from a person’s own area code to trick them into answering the call.

As technology changes, so too will the rules and regulations regarding calling practices that may have the unintended consequence of creating new hurdles for legitimate businesses using automated dialers.

Troutman Sanders will continue to monitor and report on important developments involving calling regulations.