Google will allow businesses to call their customers with an Android phone while displaying the businesses’ name, logo, the reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google, the company announced in a blog post on Tuesday. The feature, called Verified Calls, will be available on Google’s Phone app, which is the default calling app on Pixel devices, among others, and will also be available for download starting later this week on more Android devices. Verified Calls are initially rolling out in India, US, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain, with more countries to come.
If it works as advertised, the feature may help to filter spam calls, which are a huge problem in India. On an average, an Indian received 25.6 pesky calls a month in 2019, a 15% increase from 2018, as per a report by caller ID app Truecaller, released in December 2019. According to that report, India was the fifth most spam called country in the world. Telecom service providers, trying to sell data plans among other things, were the biggest spammers in 2019, with 67% of the spam calls made by them, the report had said.
How Verified Calls will work: Before a business calls a user, it will first send Google’s dedicated Verified Calls server their phone number, the user’s phone number, and a reason for calling the user. When a business calls a user, the user’s device compares the incoming call information with the information Google received from the business. If there’s a match, the Phone app displays the call as a Verified call. However, this will only work for businesses that choose to sign up with one of Google’s partners for getting their calls verified.
Google claims it’s done in a secure way: This is done in a secure way, Google claimed, saying that it doesn’t collect or store any personally identifiable information after verification. “When the business calls you, your device within minutes of verification, Google deletes your phone number and the call reason from the Verified Calls server,” Google said, also noting that the feature is turned on by default.
Google believes this will improve call answer rates: Google claimed this feature will result in better answer rates. It said it has been piloting Verified Calls for a few months, and the early results indicate that it improves the likelihood of someone answering a call. “This in turn helps reduce business costs while identifying relevant calls to people in a trustworthy way. A wide range of businesses and institutions have been using Verified Calls during the pilot. For instance, banks calling to alert a customer about a possible fraudulent transaction can increase answer rates by stating the call reason,” it said.
Google vs Truecaller? This feature pits Google against Truecaller to an extent, as it essentially will notify the user as to which business is calling a user. However, while Google’s service will only work for businesses that are registered with it, Truecaller notifies users whenever they receive a spam call. However, Google’s service also allows businesses to inform users why they are calling them.
It should be noted, however, that the two services aren’t inherently similar. Truecaller is essentially a caller ID app, where users can also input a number to ascertain the identity of a caller. In Google’s case, a group of businesses that sign up with its partners will be able to make calls marked as verified to users. Also, Truecaller works on both iOS and Android, whereas, Google’s service is an Android-only feature.
TRAI’s rules around pesky calls: Indian receive a number of pesky calls and messages despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) direction to all telecom providers to submit monthly reports about pesky calls, starting September 2019, in a move aimed at cracking down on unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) in India. TRAI has also issued new rules making it mandatory for firms to get user consent before making such calls. It also set a monetary penalty for entities found guilty of making unsolicited calls.