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article imageU.S. FCC sets limits on robocalls and automated text messages

By Leigh Goessl     Feb 16, 2012 in Politics
Washington - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just cut the connection for "robocalls."
In response to consumer complaints about this practice, the FCC says it decided to take action.
According to a new ruling, telemarketing companies are going to have further restrictions on using automated calls to reach U.S. consumers.
Chairman Julius Genachowski released a statement yesterday saying, "Today, we take action to further empower consumers to avoid unwanted “robocalls. For decades, Congress and the Commission have recognized that consumers should have control over the telemarketing calls that come to their homes and mobile devices, and be able to stop the ones that they don’t want to receive."
Robocalls are automated dialers that call consumers, usually at inconvenient times, such as at dinner time or weekends. It's also a problem for mobile users. Consumers with limited minutes on their carrier's plan will no longer have to worry about their precious minutes being eaten up by telemarketers.
Automated text messages without written consent by the consumer are now also prohibited.
Genachowski further elaborated on how, despite current rules, "too many" telemarketers find ways to circumvent them through use of autodialers and prerecorded messages, calling consumers who have no desire to receive these calls.
The rules stipulate that telemarketers must have expressed written consent by the consumer to be contacted. It does not matter whether or not the business has an established relationship with the consumer, written permission from the consumer must be obtained before an automated call can be made. An example cited by CNN would be a bank can no longer call its checking account customers to try and sell additional products, such as insurance.
Genachowski also stated the FCC is "also closing a loophole so that every single telemarketing campaign will have to comply with strict limits on the “dead-air” calls"; these are calls where a call recipient picks up the phone and there is a delay while the telemarketer has placed many calls simultaneously.
It is important to note this ruling does not affect live callers where a person is calling the consumer, it only the puts stronger restrictions on robocalls.
In accordance with the new rules, opt-out mechanisms must be allowed, permitting a consumer to "revoke consent" during a call. If a consumer takes this option during the call, the marketer must add the consumer to the national do-not-call list and terminate the call immediately.
"Each and every telemarketing robocall will have to include an automated, interactive opt-out mechanism, so that a consumer can revoke consent by pressing just a few keys during the call," Genachowski said.
This decision is designed to empower consumers with having a choice of whether or not to receive these calls.
"By requiring prior written consent, consumers will be making an affirmative and definitive choice, whether or not to receive telemarketing robocalls," said FCC Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn in a statement. Clyburn also pointed out a benefit to the telemarketers. By eliminating the non-interested consumers from their marketing campaigns, they'll likely see a higher degree of success with the consumers who do want the calls.
Additionally, there are some exemptions, such as nonprofits, political calls, school notifications and airlines (re: flight information, etc) are exempt. The FCC says they want to ensure the automated calls that "are informational" which "consumers may have come to rely on" are not disrupted. This may also include banks which are relaying fraudulent account activity information to their customer.
Of course that also means Americans can still expect to receive a bombardment of election-related recorded messages this 2012 presidential election.
More about Fcc, Robocalls, Telemarketers, Federal communications commission, automated calls
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