Sprint Offers Premium Caller ID App to Flag Robocalls: Good Start, But Phone Companies Can Do Better

Maureen Mahoney
Policy Analyst

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Thanks to the hard work of nearly 750,000 supporters like you, more major phone companies are starting to move on robocalls. Mobile provider Sprint has recently announced that it will be rolling out a new app, Sprint Premium Caller ID, for their customers who use the HTC Bolt smartphone.

The Premium Caller ID improves on standard Caller ID in several ways. Customers who sign up will see not only the number of the incoming call, but the caller’s name as well. The app will flag the call if it is from a robocaller, spammer, or spoofer. And the app will assign a threat level to suspicious calls–low, medium, or high risk. The consumer can then decide whether to take the call, block future calls from that number, and/or report the number to help improve the app’s ability to identify unwanted calls.

Right now, Sprint’s Premium Caller ID is only available for HTC Bolt users (that’s an Android smartphone for Sprint customers). But it is expected to be available to additional Android and iOS devices soon. No word on whether it will be made available for basic cell phone users in the future. This app will cost $2.99 per month, and $3 a month for those with a prepaid plan.

It’s encouraging that vendors are continually unveiling new and improved technologies to address the frustrating robocall problem, and we’re glad to see a major phone company experiment with new tools. Other companies like AT&T have lagged behind in making comparable steps.

Still, Sprint’s service doesn’t provide consumers adequate protection from robocalls. Consumers need the option to automatically block all spam calls. There are already other apps on the market that consumers can download that offer the blocking capability. We think that all consumers should be able to opt into the blocking functionality through their phone company – and the FCC agrees with us.

We’re also disappointed  that the Premium Caller ID app costs $3 per month. Phone companies shouldn’t pass the costs of robocalls onto their customers.  We feel strongly that robocall-blocking protection should be provided free of charge.

And finally, everyone deserves robocall protection, whether they have a smartphone, basic cell phone, or landline. While this app will soon be available to a wide variety of Sprint’s smartphone customers, it’s not clear that Sprint’s basic cell phone users will be able to take advantage of this service, though the vendor noted that its technology could be configured for all types of phone service, including wireless, VoIP, and landline.

The technology is out there to remedy the problem of robocalls. But your help is needed to make sure that the phone companies offer effective robocall-blocking protection to all of their customers at absolutely no cost. Please join our campaign to keep up the drumbeat for a future without robocalls!

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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