The FTC Wants You To Help End Robocalls
October 19, 2012

The FTC Wants You To Help End Robocalls

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Robocalls, those annoying little interruptions in the middle of dinner or some other treasured family time event, have been called out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) before.

In fact, these agencies have already declared attempts to curb these calls twice this year alone: In February, the FCC made it illegal for telemarketers to robocall without written or electronic consent; And then in July, the FTC got involved and decided to take matters into their own hands.

It turns out, despite their earlier efforts, some of our nation´s big wigs were getting robocalls at home themselves. Since it was now personal, the FTC stepped up their game, created a Web site (as you do) and wrote a new action plan for bringing these robotic calls to an end.

It appears as if these measures set in place by the FTC have not been working (or working as quickly) as they expected. So now, they´re cracking down even further on these telemarketers, enlisting a frustrated general public to join them in their fight. According to, the FTC is “challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls.”

In addition to an overall feeling of warmth and satisfaction for deeds performed for the betterment of your fellow man (or woman), the champion of this challenge will get to walk away with $50,000.

Any homegrown solution will be required to not only block these calls on landlines, but on mobile phones as well. The FTC isn´t too picky on how these methods work, saying any solution can work on a proprietary or non-proprietary device or platform. The solution doesn´t even have to be a piece of technology, as the FTC will even take ideas and proofs of concepts as entries.

Yes, the FTC, for whatever reason, is truly eager to put an end to telephone spam. Solutions will be judged and scored on three criteria.

First, any solution, be it an actual, tangible device or the notion of a device, will have to prove its effectiveness. These solutions will be tested against different types of robocalls made to both landlines and mobile phones. The FTC isn´t looking for a one-off solution, however, and will test entries to ensure they can´t be easily circumvented by crafty telemarketers. How well a solution works in this area is worth half the total score, so solutions had better be effective, the agency said.

The next criteria will judge how easily the solution can be implemented by the FTC and used by the general public. While this aspect could easily be more difficult than making something work, the FTC is only accrediting a quarter of the score to a solution´s performance in this area.

Finally, a solution should be practical to install and deploy. The FTC is so eager to put an end to robocalls that they´re even placing a higher value on solutions which can be implemented immediately, even if they are on a small-scale. The FTC judges are only placing a quarter´s worth of points on this criteria, however.

The FTC contest will begin taking proposals on October 25th and will continue accepting applications until January 17th at 5 PM. The judging of these solutions will go on from January to March 31st, and the winner will be announced on tax day, April 15th.

While the FTC could very well accept and reward someone for their solution, they could still choose not to use the solution for whatever reason. The FTC will, however, allow the winners full control of their solutions and allow them to implement the ideas contained within them elsewhere.