New FCC Limitations on Robo-Calls and Auto Text Messages
Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new guidelines designed to limit the unapproved use of automatically dialed calls, or robo-calls, and automatic text messages. It also brings their requirements more in line with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The new rules were issued to close loop holes in the existing regulation that dates back to 2008. Some companies were using those gaps in the regulation to continue contacting consumers who maintained relationships with businesses, even if their numbers were listed on the National Do Not Call Registry. A robo-call contains a pre-recorded message that plays when the phone is answered.
The new rules will eliminate unwarranted contact under such circumstances.
They are as follows:
- Under the new rules, companies would have to secure written permission before contacting a consumer using one of these methods.
- Before, companies who possessed an existing relationship with the consumer could contact them using robo-calls without permission but now, it is not permitted without written permission.
- Every such call must offer an opt-out system for the consumer to prevent future contact, if they so choose. The company will then have to disconnect the call and add the consumer to an internal do-not-call list.
- In addition, some companies also dial many numbers at once to increase the number of consumers whom answer the phones. Sometimes, there are more consumers than operators and this creates abandoned calls, or dead air. The new regulations limit how many abandoned calls are placed in a specific campaign, even when live operators are used.
- The FCC offers an exemption only for healthcare-related calls to landline phones, already set in place by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; and informational robocalls, such as school closings, airline flight updates and prescription refill reminders. In addition, the rules do not apply to charity and political speech.
The rules also apply to mobile phones and text messaging, since consumers complained robo-calls were eating away at their allotment of minutes. Outreach companies using live agents dialing the numbers are exempt from this set of regulations.
To make it easier for consumers and companies to comply, they are permitting the use of electronic signatures, including e-mails, as a means of gathering and meeting the prior written consent requirement.
“The new rules are aimed at giving consumers more control over who call them,” states FCC Chairman FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Consumers can still place their number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
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