FTC Offers $50K Prize For Working Robocall Blocker

Dennis Faas's picture

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appears to have concluded that legal action isn't enough to stop automated telemarketers. That's why it's offering a $50,000 reward for a device capable of stopping the calls.

The automated calls, sometimes called 'robocalls,' originate with a computer dialing a number and playing a recorded message when the call is answered. Robocalls allow firms to make more phone calls without paying staff to communicate with people.

Another government agency, the Federal Communications Commission, introduced new rules on robocalls earlier this year. Under the new rules, callers must now get explicit written permission before unleashing robocallers.

Millions Complain About Unwanted Marketing Calls

Now the FTC is trying to find a way to stop firms that continue to break the FCC rules. It says that despite the legal strictures, people receiving unwanted robocalls have lodged more than two million complaints.

The agency's strategy is to invite inventors to come up with a way to block unwanted calls. The contest is open to individuals and businesses with fewer than ten employees. Larger firms can participate but can't win the cash. (Source: ftc.gov)

The winner will be chosen based on three main criteria: whether the solution works, whether the solution is easy to use, and whether the solution can be used across the country without too much hassle.

Judges will also look at whether a solution works on both landlines and mobile phones, and whether it's accessible by people with disabilities. (washingtonpost.com)

Inventors Can Examine Sample Data, Try Out Their Solutions

The criteria appear designed to favor an immediate practical solution, but judges will not rule out a brilliant idea that requires some longer-term tweaking.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the contest can acquire FTC sample data, including example robocalls, which they can use to understand the nature of robocalls and to try out their technologies.

The contest runs from October 25, 2012, to January 17, 2013.

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