Understandably after I was cross a junk call some people say "your work for a telco".
So, first off, I do, but I don't expect special treatment. Anything we can do for me, we should be able to do for any of our customers. OFCOM have some brain dead plans on CLI which will fix nothing in this area, so I will not even bother to link to them.
I have been pondering what A&A can do?
Well, one simple step is have anonymous call reject (ACR) on the normal (01/02) numbers which has a message "This number has been changed to" and quote a number with an unusual prefix, like 033 or 055 or 056. These are not expensive to call, but I bet junk callers will just move on to the next mark and not dial an alternative number.
But what else can we do?
At present, we do not see the underlying CLI for most callers where the CLI is withheld. As a telco that is something we are "allowed" to see. What we cannot do is pass it on to any of our customers. We have several carriers, and it is complicated. We can definitely have access to withheld CLI from one, but that depends on a factor outside our direct control at the moment, and we are working on it. We may be able to get from another carrier. In an ideal world, all the incoming calls would provide a CLI even when withheld. Obviously we need to audit our systems to be 100% sure we do suppress such CLI from our end users as well, though I am pretty sure we have that sorted.
If there is some police investigation we do have details of the way calls are routed in and out for long enough to allow some tracing of calls back through connected carriers if needed. In that respect we don't need to see withheld CLI. The police could investigate. But I assume most people would not want to involve police time on such nuisance if they can avoid it.
So, let's assume we get the withheld CLI in due course, what can we do?
Well, we have been working on ways we can provide customers with easy ways to block things. Not just blocking specific caller CLIs but ideally blocking withheld CLIs. We need some way to dial a code, or click on a CDR record, to say "block this caller" even when the end user cannot see the number being blocked. We can only really add that extra step fully when we have withheld CLIs.
But even where we have a block, I wonder what else to do - the simple answer is a message "This call is blocked", or an ACR level "This number does not accept calls where CLI is withheld, redial without withholding your CLI, usually by prefixing the call with 1470".
But do we want to offer users more choice, like "Fuck off and die in the pits of hell" as a message? Would such a message be break of some legislation on offensive communications? What if the communication is from a machine?
One idea was an ACR of "This number does not accept calls where CLI is withheld, redial without withholding your CLI, usually by prefixing the call with 1470, or hold to be connected if you agree to pay £5/minute to the recipient for handling this call"...
Now this would be a fun one, you'd want that on the call recording, obviously, but whilst we would not have a way to make the call expensive, the junk caller hanging on the line and being connected could be deemed to have entered in to a contract there. No need to rely on PECR or ICO or anything else, if they are a junk caller then they have agreed to pay for the call.
I can't work out a wording of "if you are a junk caller" that I can be confident would be legally enforceable. Maybe " if your call is in breach of the privacy and electronic communications regulations" on the end of that message would suffice. Then a hospital calling from withheld would be able to hold and talk without fear of a bill.
Would it put them off? Who knows! Would it make for a fun county court claim, maybe, just maybe...
Anyway, some time, A&A will no doubt have some more options for our voice customers. Watch this space.