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March 23, 2011 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Why don't cell phone companies block anonymous calls?

I was looking to see what my provider (AT&T Wireless) had as far as whitelist and blacklisting capabilities. Asides from putting an additional fee on that service, apparently they do not block anonymous calls at all. Nor does Verizon, who also charge for the whitelist/blacklist services (so for those apathetic about the T-Mobile merger and the lack of competition, just look at that as an example). I know these are services that land-lines offer, and it's not exactly a conceptually or technically difficult thing to do. So why don't wireless providers just do this?
posted by Weebot to Technology (15 answers total)
 
Mobile phone companies charge termination fees - eg, they charge the person calling for the call ending in their network. It's a money thing.
posted by dougrayrankin at 12:58 PM on March 23, 2011


Why don't cell phone companies block anonymous calls?

Because there are legit reasons why a number would be anonymous. Not everyone who has one is a salesperson, scam, etc.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:00 PM on March 23, 2011


Well dougrayrankin pretty much answered this. The companies can, they choose not to. They get paid twice for the calls, once by the caller and once by the receiver. Same for texting. The telecomunications industry drives me crazy.
posted by fifilaru at 1:02 PM on March 23, 2011


dougrayrankin: I'm not sure I understand how that would be different with a block number. You'd still charge the person making the call, the call would just always end.
posted by Weebot at 1:02 PM on March 23, 2011


Agreed that not every anonymous call is sales or a scam. For instance, calls from the White House and the State Department register as "unknown number" on a cell phone.
posted by fancypants at 1:08 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


fancypants, NotMyselfRightNow: I'm not asking about the value of anonymous calls, I'm asking about the discrepancy between landlines and VOIP, which offer this service, and wireless services, which don't.
posted by Weebot at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2011


People, it doesn't matter if non-anonymous calls can be non-scams; as pointed out, this is an option on many land-line phone service, which is considered more "serious" business.

I work some in the telco field in Canada, and anecdotally, it seems that we have many more problems with wireless providers not passing through CLID. Additionally, at least the number porting process is different, and in general wireless telco seems flakier.

If I had to guess why they don't allow it, it would be a mixture of, 1) you'd miss too many non-anonymous calls and get mad at them, and 2) you're likely getting billed per minute that you're on the phone, or running closer to have to pay overage minutes, so they want you to spend as much time on the phone as possible 3) sweet, sweet control. The wireless companies are used to getting more per month than landlines do, as well as contracts locking you in. Until someone else comes out with this "feature" no one else is bringing it up, and there aren't a lot of wave-makers among the carriers.

In short, the wireless companies want to do as little as possible, so there isn't a hard reason that there's not a for-cost option to block anonymous calling, there instead isn't a soft-reason for them to want to do it.
posted by nobeagle at 1:28 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mobile phone companies charge termination fees - eg, they charge the person calling for the call ending in their network. It's a money thing.

Really? Is this a US only thing, because I've never heard of such a thing, it seems absurd.
posted by atrazine at 2:08 PM on March 23, 2011


I would pay an extra $5/month to be able to set a list of numbers ("blocked", "unknown", "0000000000" and "9999999999") to never get through to my phone or voicemail. I seriously don't understand how this is not an option available to me. The carrier can still charge the caller for his minute or air time or whatever, I don't care, I just don't want to deal with these people.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2011


Not at all an answer to your question, but one of the first things I did with Tasker on my Android phone was have it automatically hang up on all blocked-number calls. That was almost worth the purchase price in and of itself.
posted by cardioid at 2:44 PM on March 23, 2011


Really? Is this a US only thing, because I've never heard of such a thing, it seems absurd.

No. It doesn't happen at all in the U.S. or Canada, but is standard practice outside North America (that it costs more to call a cell phone). You can't tell whether a +1 number is a cell phone or not.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:04 PM on March 23, 2011


The telecom also charges the receiver!. They make a lot of money this way. They want you to continue to answer the phone so they can charge you for answering it. If they blocked calls, then you would not be tempted to answer an anonymous call.

It would be like the postal system charging the sender of a letter for a stamp and then when you got the letter, if you wanted to open it, you had the postal system again.
posted by fifilaru at 6:10 PM on March 23, 2011


that is....

had to PAY the postal system again.
posted by fifilaru at 6:11 PM on March 23, 2011


Not a direct to the question, but I wholeheartedly recommend YouMail. It's awesome (and free).
posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:52 PM on March 23, 2011


atrazine: "Mobile phone companies charge termination fees - eg, they charge the person calling for the call ending in their network. It's a money thing.

Really? Is this a US only thing, because I've never heard of such a thing, it seems absurd
"

No - and it makes more sense if you think about it.

one more dead town's last parade: "Really? Is this a US only thing, because I've never heard of such a thing, it seems absurd.

No. It doesn't happen at all in the U.S. or Canada, but is standard practice outside North America (that it costs more to call a cell phone). You can't tell whether a +1 number is a cell phone or not
"

Rubbish. It's true that the insane system of charging the receiver to take a call/get a text doesn't exist anywhere else, but termination fees definitely happen all over Europe. This, for example, allows UK mobile networks to give you free minutes for every minute you are called instead of charging you extra like in the US.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:26 AM on March 24, 2011


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