Thursday, 10 October 2013

ACR

I have written to the ICO again...

When the PECR came in, we raised the issue with the ICO that the mobile operators were not providing anonymous call rejection service.

At the time, the mobile operators, and OFCOM, and the ICO were saying that the means reject such a call was to "press the red button on the phone".

This provided the "user" with means to reject the call, but not the "subscriber" as required by the regulations.

At the time, in spite of the clear breach of the regulations by all of the mobile operators, the ICO did not take any action.

We now have the situation where, on my iPhone, when a call comes in, I no longer have any option to "reject" a call. There is no "red button". At best I can silence the call but not "reject" it as per the regulations.

Once again, as per section 32, I request the Commissioner to exercise his enforcement functions.

23 comments:

  1. That's nuts.. ACR is about not getting the call in the first place not hanging up afterwards.. You can pick up and drop the receiver even on old style phones - does that mean BT don't need to provide ACR?

    The ICO are starting to make even ofcom look competent.

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  2. > on my iPhone, when a call comes in, I no longer have any option to "reject" a call

    You do still have this option, just press the Sleep/Wake button twice quickly.

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    1. Obvious?! Even so, we still have the fact that I am the user, and not necessarily the subscriber.

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    2. The thing with the iPhone only happens if you get a call when it's locked (although that can be most of the time). Of course the other problem is that if you reject a call on a mobile it gets sent to voicemail (if you have it switched on - or failing that, a message about the phone being unavailable or switched off) whereas what I suspect you're really after is the caller hearing a message to the effect of "stop withholding your number or sod off".

      Also, are there in fact any landline phones that would even let you silence/refuse a call in the same way a mobile does? Having to pick the phone up and then put it down again doesn't count, in my opinion.

      Presumably you're not saying a mobile ACR service has to be free? The operators could easily make quite a bit of money (maybe £1 a month or something, like Orange are apparently now charging for visual voicemail) and ease pressure on the network if they implemented it.

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    3. > Also, are there in fact any landline phones that would even let you silence/refuse a call in the same way a mobile does?

      On a POTS line there is no way to signal the exchange to reject the call - the only way to tell the exchange to stop ringing is to take the phone off-hook.

      On an ISDN, ISUP (SS7) or SIP trunk you can reject the call with various "reason" codes (such as "number unobtainable", "busy", "congested", etc.), or open a media stream while still on-hook and play a custom message. Of course, how your telco handles that rejection varies too - for example, if you subscribe to BT's 1571 service, sending a "number busy" rejection would presumably cause BT to pick up the call instead and do voicemail on it rather than telling the caller to get lost...

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  3. My phone is configured to bounce busy/unanswered calls to my office number. We pay for this divert.

    My office number is configured to bounce busy/unanswered calls to a PA service. We pay for this divert and we pay the PA service to answer the call.

    If I press the red button on the phone, the above kicks in and I suffer a loss.

    If I am away from my phone when it rings, the above kicks in and I suffer a loss.

    The only way to avoid this cost is to answer the call and drop it immediately. There are sooo many reasons why this is inappropriate.

    What makes it worse is that about 18 months ago somebody rear-ended me. Somebody (one of the insurance companies or solicitors) has shared all of my details (home number, mobile number, address, inside leg measurement etc.) and I have been receiving two or three anonymous/withheld calls from ambulance chasers every day for the past two months. Because of the above diverts, these calls have cost me a reasonable amount of cash.

    If I had ACR, even at £1 a month, I'd be better off (both financially and emotionally).

    Perhaps I should send the ICO a bill......?

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    1. Section 30 of the regulations allow you to send your mobile company a bill - go for it.

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    2. It amazes me that insurance companies want to encourage ambulance chasing, but a similar thing happened to me - after shopping for car insurance quotes (which obviously involves declaring previous accidents), one of the insurance companies illegally sold my data and I started getting calls that claimed to be from "your insurance company". Since they didn't specify exactly what insurance company I was immediately suspicious that something was amiss and on further questioning they said they weren't actually my insurance company, they had been contracted by my insurance company (and yet they still wouldn't tell me who they thought my insurer actually was). Eventually, they admitted that they weren't contracted by an insurance company at all; they had been sold my data and were cold-calling to get leads for ambulance-chasing. They even tried to convince me to make a personal injury claim after I had pointed out that the accident they were talking about involved my car being hit by another party while it was parked and completely unoccupied.

      So after lieing to me twice about who they were, and then trying to convince me to file a claim that they knew would be fraudulent, I eventually found out who they got my data from (it was an insurance comparison website). Unfortunately the ICO were uninterested in taking any action against either company, and I know that the seller of the data has sold it to many third parties illegally. There's no way for me to regain control of that data now and as far as the buyers of the data are concerned, they've been told that I have opted into having my data sold off, which means they have probably resold it in turn.

      I really think we need some regulation to make it completely illegal to sell off personal data unless the seller *themselves* have been specifically informed by the person identified by the data that they can sell it. At the moment it seems that you can use some service who then sell off your data (either illegally or because you didn't opt out), then the company who were sold it can sell it on again because as far as they know you opted into allowing your data to be sold, and whoever they sold it to can resell it again, ad infinitum and there's no way to stop that once its started.

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    3. Something I do with email addresses is to do something with them that makes them unique for what I'm doing

      For example Google Mail (business and personal) allows you to

      1) Put dots anywhere in your email address before the @ (i.e myemail@gmail.com to my.email@gmail.com)
      2) Put +anything after your address, before the @ (i,e myemail+something@gmail.com).

      Both of these allow me to generate a unique email to send to everything I sign up for, and I keep a record of what email address I used for what company/URL

      As a phone provider you could start doing the same for your phone numbers. Allocate yourself a block of 100, then give out a unique number to everyone

      This would allow you to know with certainty which company has given your details out!

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    4. All well and good, but numbers aren't free and Ofcom probably wouldn't look too kindly on single use numbers!

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    5. Numbers used to be free - OFCOM are changing that, retrospectively.

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    6. You would have to make an argument that using numbers in this way satisfied the regulatory requirement of "efficient use" of numbers, which are treated as a scarce resource. You may have some luck by pointing out how this approach attains objectives from other parts of the regulatory framework — namely, privacy and ACR — and so is not "inefficient" since it attains a clearly legitimate regulatory objective in a way that existing mechanisms do not.

      If Ofcom was not sold on this, they would need to consider other regulatory mechanisms for ensuring efficiency rather than just banning the practice outright: for example, by attaching an upfront charge for reserving each number, plus an annual charge for its use, so that a subscriber had to pay for the capability. This is fundamentally the incentive mechanism used for the management of the other major telecoms scarce resource, spectrum.

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  4. Since phone companies are required to provide the anonymous calls themselves free of charge, both per-call and ongoing, I can't see any excuse for anonymous call rejection also being required to be available on the same basis - let alone an excuse for their refusal to provide it at all. Fingers crossed for ICO doing some digit extraction at last!

    Now that BT's "free" 1571 service is becoming £1.75 per month, I'm going to revisit the idea of using call forwarding and an Asterisk setup to implement my own. Needless to say, I'll make sure voicemail answers all anonymous and "out-of-area" calls as well. (A pre-recorded "reveal your identity or go away" would be nice, but most spammers won't bother leaving messages anyway, making it largely academic; for legitimate calls, getting a voicemail message seems better than trying to get them to redial non-anonymously.) At £3.50 for call diversion, it's getting pricey .. maybe port the number to A&A VoIP and get the line broadband-only?

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    1. Isn't that what Asterisk's "torture" mode is for?!

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    2. Instead of call forwarding, you can use an spa3102/obi110 etc to pass the call across to an Asterisk box..

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  5. And then there's the service offered by http://www.minutesandmore.co.uk/controlling-calls.php ... if I was confident that this was legal I'd have done it myself ages ago ;)

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    1. We have implemented this as a proof of concept for one of our customers (where a number is withheld, the caller has to press a key to confirm that they want their number released). They passed it through their legal department who killed it! The problem is that the calling user may not have permission from the line subscriber to release the number and they just didn't want to take the risk that somebody would complain.

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    2. Interesting. The 1470 prefix doesn't seem to have been stopped by this question; wouldn't your legal people be satisfied by that precedent, and/or confirmation from ICO that this is OK? Is there any way to stop 1470 being used?

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    3. But 1470 can be disabled by the subscriber - if, for example, they code their PBX to disallow it.

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    4. Oh, they can filter dialled numbers, yes - but if it's OK for BT to provide a mechanism for users to bypass the number-withheld selection of the subscriber, it seems highly unlikely ICO would take action against you for doing much the same thing.

      Indeed, since the rationale for allowing 141 is the personal right to privacy, I'd like to see it prohibited on business lines entirely, or at least subject to a non-trivial per-use surcharge. Not to mention enforcement action against all my "out of area" robocallers! Perhaps a new shortcode for reporting spam calls; BT's 'choose to refuse' can already blacklist the previous caller - number withheld or not - so reporting spammers the same way should be easy as well as useful.

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  6. Eurgh. The bad English in the page made me stop reading after the first paragraph

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    1. That was meant to be replied to rsmck, but I was on my phone ... whoops.

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  7. You're right. Any useful content is lost on me because I'm so enraged by the bad grammar!

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