First Orion, the company behind PrivacyStar, has re-launched its portal that allows legitimate call originators to register their phone numbers and access an avenue to correct improper call labeling. The portal, which originally launched in beta last fall, is called CallTransparency.com.
According to an announcement by the company, this new version also includes -- at no charge -- a Number Reputation Service (NRS) that calling parties can subscribe to that will monitor the Nuisance Score for their phone numbers, provide periodic reports on what's happening and alert the owner if an unusual spike occurs. As an example, First Orion says it will help legitimate, verified brands know when their numbers have been illegally spoofed or are getting a negative reaction from individuals (e.g. high number of blocks and complaints).
The company says,
The Registry ensures legitimate businesses are employing valid numbers and protects them from being labeled as scam. In addition, The Registry also summarizes areas where bad practices may be causing high nuisance perception and enables correct categorization of phone numbers.
As soon as legitimate businesses register and their numbers are verified First Orion will display as such throughout First Orion's network of influence. To ensure the highest level of accuracy, First Orion validates the registering business and verifies the phone numbers. Post validation, registering companies receive actionable information as part of the free registration process. This includes the provision of any specific telephone lines which have been labeled as scam, summarization of numbers perceived as high nuisance and summarization of pre and post-categorization of numbers.
First Orion provides call transparency solutions through the T-Mobile mobile network, and through the PrivacyStar mobile app. PrivacyStar is one of the largest sources of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission. Users can simultaneously block calls and file a complaint with just a few clicks, directly from their mobile phone. This led to astronomical growth in complaints filed. In January 2012, when PrivacyStar had just started feeding complaints to the FTC, 389 complaints about debt collection were submitted through the app. In January 2016 that number was 74,800. In the same month, 6,800 debt collection complaints were processed by the CFPB.
First Orion has been among the most cooperative call blocking/labeling providers, engaging with regulators and industry to address the problem of mislabeled calls. This is what led to the establishment of their CallTransparency portal. While other providers have also been at the table, none has released a similar tool or offered a defined path for communication with legitimate businesses.
The ARM industry has worked to educate the wide range of organizations in this new ecosystem about the unique challenges faced by debt collectors related to potential third party disclosure associated with call labeling. One result of this is that First Orion adopted "account servicing" as a substitute label for debt collection. This willingness to compromise has been greatly appreciated. And...it's clear -- to me at least -- that this is a temporary and imperfect solution. It's not the full transparency that a consumer would want, and once it becomes known that "account servicing" is a moniker for "debt collection" it may end up carrying the same risk.
This is actually a perfect example of why the industry needs a change in regulatory approach related to third party disclosure. See my opinion post for more about this.