Skip to main content

FCC approves new limits on automated telemarketing calls

By Aaron Cooper, CNN
February 15, 2012 -- Updated 1939 GMT (0339 HKT)
A telemarketing company that has a real person dialing the phone numbers is not subject to the new rules.
A telemarketing company that has a real person dialing the phone numbers is not subject to the new rules.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rules address "continued" robocalls, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says
  • NEW: Robocalls include an automated, interactive opt-out feature, he says
  • Also limited are "dead air" calls in which no one is on the line when the call is answered
  • Rules do not apply to companies that have a real person dialing the number

Washington (CNN) -- The Federal Communications Commission approved new rules Wednesday to further limit automatically dialed or prerecorded calls know as "robocalls" and automated text messages.

The FCC's rules go beyond Federal Trade Commission rules that have been in force since 2008.

"Too many telemarketers, aided by autodialers and prerecorded messages, have continued to call consumers who don't want to hear from them," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement read at the meeting. These new overlapping rules seek to close loopholes in the existing regulations.

Under the new requirements, telemarketers will have to get permission in writing before placing an automated call to a consumer. Previously, companies that had an established business relationship with a particular consumer could call them without permission. For example, another FCC official not authorized to speak publicly explained, a bank could robocall one of its checking account customers to try to sell them insurance. The new rules prohibit that without written permission.

Information calls, such as school closing information and flight cancellations, are an exception. They can be made to land-line phones without written permission. Text messages and calls to cell phones are subject to stricter rules.

"Any type of phone call or text to a wireless device needs written consent," the FCC official added.

Telemarketers also will be required to let consumers easily prevent any future calls.

"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. The company will have to immediately disconnect the call and add you to their do-not-call list.

"Dead air" calls also are restricted by the new rules. Some telemarketers place many calls at once guessing how many people will answer the phone; if more people answer than there are operators, the result on the receiver's end is often the silence of a delayed response.

The new rules "strictly" limit the number of such calls telemarketers can make "within each calling campaign," the FCC said.

A telemarketing company that has a real person dialing the phone numbers is not subject to the new rules.

"Consumers' first line of protection against any call is the do-not-call list," the FCC official said.

Consumers can sue companies who violate these rules, the FCC official explained, adding, "We also take action based on trends of complaints."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT