The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) places limits on unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to landline home telephones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages to wireless numbers, emergency numbers, and patient rooms at health care facilities. These calls are known as “robocalls.” The FCC recently took steps to give consumers additional control over the robocalls they receive with new rules that went into effect in October 2013. This consumer guide describes how the FCC’s rules have changed, rules that will continue unchanged that also provide consumer protections, and how you can best avoid unwanted telephone calls.
The New Rules For Robocalls
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 keypress, or a recording of your oral consent.
Another change is that telemarketers will no longer be able to make telemarketing robocalls 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 robocalls to you, even if they have an established business relationship with you. (Note: Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robocalls 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 robocalls 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 robocalls.
Continuing Robocall Consumer Protections
There is no change to the prior consent requirement for robocalls 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 robocalls rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC concerning prerecorded robocalls to residential lines. You can file a complaint concerning autodialed/prerecorded robocalls 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:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554