On the very same day that the National Consumer Law Center (“NCLC”) testified before a Senate Subcommittee blaming “household name” American businesses for the scourge of robocalls in this country, the SPB’s Unprecedented podcast team was interviewing the CEO of the company pumping out the data it relied on in its testimony. And boy oh boy does the NCLC’s story not hold water.
All of the NCLC’s bold statements were linked to a single data source—YouMail’s rather famous Robocall Index. So we asked YouMail CEO Alex Quilici to come on our podcast and explain how he is able to track robocalls. Just for fun we also brought on the CEO of a rival call-blocking app Hiya, Alex Algard, publisher of the Robocall Radar, which purports to track unwanted calls. Thinks there’s a difference in their data? You betcha.
Alex Quilici—all around great guy that he is—explained transparently that his index does not make “value judgments” about the calls he tracks and he doesn’t know how the calls are actually placed. YouMail is just tracking high volume calls, which he calls “robocalls” because that’s what YouMail thinks consumers call high-volume calls. He is quick to admit, however, that large percentages of those calls are account reminder calls, low balance and fraud alert messages, and other legitimate—and innocuous—calls that consumers want and expect. Importantly, YouMail has no idea—and does not purport to track—which calls are legal or illegal, wanted or unwanted, consented to or unconsented to. All the Robocall Index does it track high-volume calls. That’s about it.
Meanwhile, Alex Algard at the Robocall Radar employs sophisticated algorithms to track when calls are wanted or unwanted based upon consumer behavior. “Actions speak louder than words” Algard tells the Unprecedented podcast team and he explains that the vast majority of debt collection calls are actually wanted calls. His tracking shows that consumers interact with account reminders and collection calls and respond well because they “see the value” in these calls. In fact according to the Robocall Radar only 2% of unwanted “robocalls” calls are debt collection calls.
Yet swinging back to the NCLC’s testimony before Congress, it claims that 19 of the 20 largest robocallers in the United States are debt collectors. Their words: “Debt collection callers comprise nineteen of the top twenty robocallers in the United States.” Their source: YouMail’s Robocall Index.
When asked about this issue on Unprecedented YouMail CEO cautioned against such a superficial take on its data: “You have to look deeper.” He explains. That’s because account alerts and low balance reminders are included within the data sets that the NCLC is relying on to push its narrative against industry—yet those are not the “robocalls” anyone is concerned with and Congress should not be wasting valuable time on misleading statistics.
As Alex Q. said post-interview: “Had fun, and more importantly, I think these dialogs are forcing everyone to think and explore beyond the headlines.” Absolutely my friend, thanks for helping to elevate the discourse.
Anyway you won’t want to miss the full interview with Alex and Alex, available right here next week. We’re making news every week.