The United States prides itself on a healthy environment within which citizens have a voice in government and corporations conduct business within a predictable regulatory structure. Both entities make decisions based on a trust that the government will act as a rational player* and change policies only when changing them is in their self-interest. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s latest Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) ruling (see the MRA members-only analysis and compliance suggestions), sending us back to rotary phones, seems to have broken that trust.

  • Would a rational government not want to hear from all of its citizens about how well we are allocating resources and spending tax revenue?
  • Would a rational player restrict both itself and its businesses from cost effectively testing services and products?

So, assuming rational players, let’s explore potential drivers behind the restrictions on cell phone dialing.

Is the public truly outraged or is the voice of a few being amplified by class action litigators?
Researchers and opinion pollsters are professionals who, on the whole, work diligently to identify cell phone numbers and treat those numbers differently. While complaints of unintended calls to cell phones do happen, the professional researcher handles the complaint and ensures that their operation removes that person from their lists.

Prior to calling, researchers will rely on the tools available to them, including the national Do Not Call registry and services that identify ported cell phones numbers and blocks of cell phone numbers.

If we want to reduce robocalls then why not regulate the practice itself?
Selectively changing the economics does not change the overall practice and suggests that we may be seeing the results of effective lobbying by Telco providers who want to offer new premium blocking services.

Or is the ruling politically motivated?
Political polling and public policy researchers rely today on phone-based data collection to reach representative respondents. Restricting access to cell phone respondents may disadvantage large blocks of citizens.

  • If researchers are now less likely to call cell phones, then the demographics who tend to be cell-phone only households (younger voters and lower socio-economic segments) will now be less represented in public policy research and the subsequent public policy decisions.
  • If researchers shift to rely more on web surveys, then seniors will be the ones less represented and policy makers will risk the very same decision making bias that the research was intended to address.

So is all this unintended consequences or are we seeing the deliberate actions of a rational player? Either way, for citizens and businesses, the FCC’s actions seem to challenge the implicit trust between citizens, businesses and their government.

CFMC joins MRA and other industry leaders in support of an open and rational business environment.

* In economics and game theory, the participants are sometimes considered to have perfect rationality: that is, they always act in a way that maximizes their utility, and are capable of arbitrarily complex deductions towards that end. They will always be capable of thinking through all possible outcomes and choosing that course of action which will result in the best possible outcome. Source: Wikipedia

Originally published at CFMC on July 17 by Mary McDougall.