End Robocalls Speaks to the Jolly Roger Telephone Company

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Over the past month, the Jolly Roger Telephone Company – a robot which helps consumers waste telemarketers’ time – has attracted a great deal of attention, including from major news outlets like NPR and The New York Times.

The service features a robot that will keep telemarketers on the line indefinitely. Consumers with three-way calling can patch in the robot after receiving an unwanted telemarketing call.  It has been programmed to respond to robocallers automatically – and will keep responding until the telemarketer gives up.

Roger Anderson, who works by day as a consultant for major telecoms, created the tool. Consumers Union spoke to Anderson recently to learn more about his service.

Anderson was spurred to create the new service because he – like so many of you – has received a lot of unwanted calls at home. The last straw came when a telemarketer swore at his young son. Not satisfied with just blocking telemarketers, Roger wanted to “keep them engaged as long as possible” to “prevent them from calling the next person.”

Anderson sees Jolly Roger as a way to stop all telemarketers, not just the ones that call you. Unwanted robocalls are rampant in part because they are so inexpensive. Internet technology has made it very cheap to spam thousands – even millions – of consumers, even from overseas. Anderson thinks that the Jolly Roger can push the economics of telemarketing in consumer’s favor. In his view, as more and more people use Jolly Roger and tie up telemarketer’s time, telemarketing will become less cost-effective for the scammers. Anderson is confident that consumers will be willing to join in the fight. “There’s a community of people who see it as a civic duty to waste the time of a telemarketer.”

Anderson hopes that a decline in robocalls will inspire consumers to hold on to their landlines. “I’m almost personally offended by all the telemarketer traffic on the network,” says Anderson. He points out, “Homes deserve phones too.”

If you’ve tried Jolly Roger, we’d love to get your feedback. We’re curious as to whether the tool is easy to use and helps reduce – and doesn’t increase – telemarketing calls. Send us your thoughts here.

Update: Consumers Union recommends that consumers closely evaluate what kind of information they’re willing to disclose to prevent robocalls, so review the privacy policy before signing up for any call-blocking app or service.

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One response to “End Robocalls Speaks to the Jolly Roger Telephone Company”

  1. Jeff says:

    If I have a few extra minutes, I will answer a robo call and see how long I can keep them on the line. One time, I kept the “Microsoft” scammers on the phone for over an hour pretending to be dumb, having all sorts of error messages and misunderstanding their instructions. They didn’t even figure out that I was just trying to waste their time. I figured that I saved at least one or two people from getting scammed that day.

    It would be great if I could do this without using my time!

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