It is an all too common experience. You sit down for dinner and gather the family around to discuss the events of the day. Your first forkful of a well-prepared meal is on its way to your mouth to satisfy your hunger when rudely interrupted by…Ring Ring. I have heard it said that a phone call is a demand for a meeting without an appointment, but if you decide to take the call or ignore the call it has still been an interruption to precious family time.

How many times do you answer the phone only to find a broken English voice on a call obviously from a foreign land trying to tell you that you need a technical issue solved or your funeral insurance needs updating or you have won a lottery you didn’t know you entered.

It has become such an issue that ex-telemarketers are writing articles on the best way to get people off the phone.

There are certain rules and regulations surrounding what telemarketers are allowed to do but many organisations ignore these rules completely. Over 11 million numbers are on the Do Not Call Register (DNCR) in Australia so there is obviously a high degree of frustration within the population but we all keep receiving the phone calls. Some organisations ignore the DNCR and others are exempt. Opinion pollsters don’t need to take any notice of the DNCR and neither do government bodies. Social researchers; registered charities and educational institutions are also exempt. You may also have inadvertently given an organisation specific permission to call you by ticking a box on an online form or requesting a newsletter (with long terms and conditions). Telemarketing calls are only permitted on weekdays between 9am and 8pm and on Saturdays until 5pm. They are never allowed on Sundays or national public holidays.

All of this is an attempt to try and limit the annoying telemarketing calls that seem to be growing in number but 88 per cent of people wish there was more they could do to stop unsolicited calls. Sometimes the best solution is a technology solution.

Google has just launched their latest mobile phone, the Pixel 3, with one feature alone that may be the sole reason that many people purchase this phone.

The Pixel 3 has a spam calling feature that uses AI and provides real-time transcriptions. The feature can be activated by the user by tapping the ‘screen call’ button. The phone will answer the call for you and alert the caller that you are using a ‘screening service from Google’ and ask them to state their name and the reason for calling. This information will then be relayed to you in real-time for you to decide what further action is required. If the text comes up and says that it is Jimmy who wants to know what time you are meeting for coffee you can answer the call and make sure Jimmy is added to your list of contacts. Upon seeing the text on your screen, you can simply decide to answer the call; end the call or block the number entirely and report it as spam. There was some consternation from various focus groups during testing that the AI voice being used sounded too much like a human and some people may think they are speaking with an actual person but Google now has a policy that it will always identify that it is a computer answering the call.

While governments can move slowly and be behind the curve in addressing new issues occurring in society, technology is often solving problems – as well as potentially creating a few new ones along the way. Telemarketers would be out there already trying to work out how to get around the solution that Google is providing in their latest phone and the battles will continue. The best solution is in your hands. Make sure you tell callers in firm and clear terms that you no longer want to be on their list – and be creative if possible to ensure you are removed. While I was writing this article I received a spam call that offered me discounts on purchasing fuel. I explained I drive an electric car – and they hung up on me! I guess they will take me off their list automatically!

Mathew Dickerson

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