The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


March 1, 2014

MEIER: More robo-call news

I wrote in early January 2014 about robo-calls on free medical alert systems. Robo-calls are recorded messages sent out by automated dialers, often by the thousands every minute. Many times they come with disguised phone numbers which complicate tracing them.

Federal law outlawed these types of calls in 2009, except in cases of political speech, non-profits, or when consumers have an existing business relationship with a firm. For instance, if a consumer has a Sears credit card, the law allowed Sears to make robo-calls.

Well, the Federal Trade Commission tightened up these exemptions. According to Consumer Reports in October 2013 the FTC adopted new rules on robo-calls, prohibiting all such sales-related calls, unless the caller received your prior written, electronic or voice consent to receive those calls.

Will the new rules stop these calls? No. Consumers still need to keep reporting all these calls to the Do Not Call Registry. Call them at (888) 382-1222 or go online to

The Federal Trade Commission acknowledged several years ago enforcement won’t stop these calls. They sponsored a contest in 2012, awarding $50,000 to anyone inventing a technology to block robo-calls. Consumer Reports reported on one winner, a company called Nomorobo. Their technology is available at no charge to individuals, and automatically hangs up on robo-callers after one ring.

But…there is a catch.

The technology only works if your phone provider offers “simultaneous ring.” So far, the only phone providers offering this are Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers. What is VoIP? It is phone service over the internet, instead of through traditional phone wires or switches. Skype is a VoIP service used by many people.

I checked the Nomorobo website at to find out how to use it. The website asks its visitors to identify their phone provider, then reports if that phone provider supports their technology.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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