Robocall rights and wrongs

Problem

Automatically dialed telephone calls with recorded messages, known as robo-calls, annoy most everyone of those individuals with landlines.

How do we stop those annoying robo-calls?`: http://youtu.be/h7fMZgEV-Bs via @YouTube

Federal and state laws forbid certain automated calls, and violators could be fined. However, you should learn what types of calls are allowed under the law before taking steps to stop ones that aren't.

For example, federal law allows charities and other nonprofit organizations to use prerecorded messages when making calls. Businesses that count you as a customer may also call you with prerecorded messages.

Automated calls that don't include a sales pitch or solicitation are permitted as well. This includes recorded calls related to health- and safety-related emergencies. For instance, if a weather emergency is pending, the law allows government authorities to call your residence to warn you.

The New Rules For Robo-calls

The FCC’s new rules impose additional requirements for how a business must obtain your consent before it may make a prerecorded telemarketing call to your residential phone number or make an autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing call or text to your wireless number. The new rules require that telemarketers first obtain your written consent to receive such calls or messages, on paper or through electronic means, including website forms, a telephone key-press, or a recording of your oral consent.

Another change is that telemarketers will no longer be able to make telemarketing robo-calls to your landline home telephone based solely on an “established business relationship” with you. You may establish such a relationship when you purchase something from a business or contact the business to ask questions. Businesses must now have your prior express written consent before making telemarketing robo-calls to you, even if they have an established business relationship with you. (Note: Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robo-calls to your wireless phone based solely on an “established business relationship” with you).

The new rules also require telemarketers to allow you to opt out of receiving additional telemarketing robo-calls immediately during a prerecorded telemarketing call through an automated menu. The opt-out mechanism must be announced at the outset of the message and must be available throughout the duration of the call. This new requirement means that you will not have to hang up and make a separate call in order to stop further telemarketing robo-calls.
Continuing Robo-call Consumer Protections

There is no change to the prior consent requirement for robo-calls and texts that are not telemarketing. These include messages regarding school closings or messages containing flight information, for example. You do not have to give your consent for these calls to your landline home phone. However, your oral or written consent is still required for these types of autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts made to your wireless number.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The FCC, along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), established a national Do-Not-Call list in accordance with the TCPA. Placing your home or personal wireless number on the Do-Not-Call list prohibits telemarketers from calling even when they do not use autodialers or prerecorded messages, unless you have given them your prior express written permission to call, or they are exempt from the rule. To register a number, go to www.donotcall.gov.
How to File a Complaint

If you think there has been a violation of the robo-calls rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC concerning prerecorded robo-calls to residential lines. You can file a complaint concerning autodialed/prerecorded robo-calls to wireless devices. While the FCC cannot award monetary or other damages to consumers in most cases, filing complaints allows the Commission to investigate violators. However, in states that permit it, you are allowed to file lawsuits against telemarketers and receive monetary damages for violations of these rules.
For More Information

For more information about the FCC's rules protecting you from unwanted calls and faxes, see the FCC consumer guide Unwanted Telephone Marketing Calls. For information about other communications issues, visit the FCC's Consumer website, or contact the FCC's Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to the FCC.

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554