Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Federal Communications Commission plays a crucial role in helping consumers stop unwanted calls, text messages and faxes. FCC rules address unsolicited telephone marketing calls – including those using automated and prerecorded messages.
FCC rules under TCPA:
- Require anyone making a telephone solicitation call to your home to provide his or her name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity can be contacted.
- Prohibit telephone solicitation calls to your home before 8 am or after 9 pm.
- Require telemarketers to comply immediately with any do-not-call request you make during a call.
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Robocalls are 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. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, FCC rules limit many types of robocalls, though some calls are permissible if prior consent is given. Rules differ between landline and wireless phones.
- Telemarketing calls can be stopped by consumers through the Do Not Call registry which protects both landline and wireless phones.
- All non-emergency robocalls, both telemarketing and informational, require a consumer's permission to be made to a wireless phone. These calls can include political, polling, and other non-telemarketing robocalls.
- Robocalls either use a technology with the capacity to autodial or utilize a pre-recorded or artificial voice.
- Calls and text messages have the same protection under FCC rules.
- Phone companies face no legal barriers to offering consumers the use of technologies that block robocalls to any phone. The FCC encouraged the companies to offer this resource.
- Consumers can take back their permission to be called or texted in any reasonable way. A calling company cannot require someone to fill out a form and mail it in as the only way to revoke consent.
- An existing commercial relationship does not constitute permission to be robocalled or texted.
- Consent to be called or texted cannot be a condition of a sale or other commercial transaction.
- Callers are allowed to call a wrong number only once before updating their list. This most commonly comes up when one person consented to be called or texted but then they gave up that number and it was reassigned to someone else. Callers have resources available to them to help them know ahead of time if a number's "owner" has changed.
- Urgent calls or texts specifically for health or fraud alerts may be allowed without prior consent. They must be free, and consumers can say "stop" at any time.
- Congress gave consumers a private right of action against callers that violate the TCPA. The Commission has also enforces the rules proactively, often stemming from consumer complaints.
- Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology for which the FCC has now given the legal approval.
- Register your number on the Do Not Call list in order to block telemarketing calls: www.donotcall.gov
- If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- Tell unwanted callers that you do not consent to the call, make a record of the number and when you made your request not to be called, and let us know.
- Wireless and landline home phones are protected against telemarketing robocalls made without prior written consent from the recipient.
- Congress also explicitly empowered consumers to choose to take legal action.
What are the rules for robocalls?
FCC rules require a business to obtain your written consent – on paper or through electronic means, including website forms, a telephone keypress – or a recording of your oral 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.
What are the consent requirements for telemarketers calling my landline?
Businesses must have your prior express written consent before making telemarketing robocalls. Telemarketers are no longer able to make telemarketing robocalls to your landline home telephone based solely on an "established business relationship" that you may have established when purchasing something from a business or contacting the business to ask questions.
Are robocalls to wireless phones permissible?
Your written or oral consent is required for ALL autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts made to your wireless number. Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robocalls to your wireless phone based solely on an "established business relationship" with you.
Do all prerecorded autodialed calls to my landline violate FCC rules?
Not always. Informational messages such as school closings or flight information are permissible without prior written consent.
What other autodialed calls are permitted under FCC robocall rules?
Market research or polling calls to residential wireline numbers are not restricted by FCC rules, nor are calls on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit groups. The rules do require all prerecorded calls, including market research or polling calls, to identify the caller at the beginning of the message and include a contact phone number. All autodialed or prerecorded non-emergency calls to wireless phones are prohibited without prior expressed consent, regardless of the call's content.
Can I opt out of autodialed calls?
FCC rules 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.
How can schools get more information about compliance?
For schools who have questions about compliance with the Commission's robocalls rules, please contact Richard.Smith@fcc.gov
Do Not Call List
The national Do Not Call list protects home voice or personal wireless phone numbers. You can register your numbers on the national Do Not Call list by phone or on the Internet at no cost.
- To register via the Internet, go to www.donotcall.gov.
- To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register.
Callers are prohibited from making telephone solicitations to any numbers on the Do Not Call list. Your numbers will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers. Telemarketers must remove your numbers from their call lists and stop calling you within 31 days from the date you register.
What is a telephone solicitation?
A telephone solicitation is a telephone call that acts as an advertisement. However, some phone solicitations are permissible under FCC rules, including: calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization. However, having an established business relationship no longer meets the rules for permissible unsolicited calls to your landline phone. Companies and telemarketers must have your express permission to call.
Are there any other lists I can register my number with?
Yes. Additionally, many states now have statewide do-not-call lists for residents. Contact your state's public service commission or consumer protection office to see if your state has such a list, and to find out how to register your number or numbers. For contact information for your state public service commission, go to www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm.
If I continue to receive such calls, what can I do?
If you receive a telephone solicitation that you think violates any of the FCC rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules, but does not award individual damages.
Unwanted messages to email accounts and texts to mobile phones and other mobile devices – commonly known as "spam" - may seem an unavoidable consequence of today's telecommunications, but the FCC's rules under TCPA do offer consumers protection and there are steps you can take to reduce the volume of spam you receive.
To reduce the number of unwanted email and texts you receive:
- Be careful about giving out your mobile phone number, email address or any other personal information.
- Read through commercial web forms. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving email from partners – but you may have to uncheck a preselected box if you want to do so.
- Do not respond to unwanted texts or emails from questionable sources. Several mobile service providers allow you to block the sender by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or "SPAM"). Check with your provider about other options.
- Use a "junk mail" or "spam" email filter.
- Consider using two email addresses – keeping one for personal messages only.
FCC rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer (which most commercial spam uses) unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes. The ban applies even if you have not placed your mobile phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list. (https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/articles/202916660).
For email and texts sent to your mobile phone:
- For commercial texts, your consent must be in writing.
- For non-commercial, informational texts (such as those sent by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations, those for political purposes, and other noncommercial purposes, such as school closings), your consent may be oral.
For commercial email:
- Your consent may be oral or written.
- Senders must tell you the name of the entity that will be sending the messages and, if different, the name of the entity advertising products or services.
- All commercial email messages sent to you after you've given your authorization must allow you to "opt out" of receiving future messages. You must be allowed to opt out the same way you opted in, such as responding with a short code. Senders have 10 days to honor requests to opt out.
While most unsolicited commercial emails and text messages are not banned by law, they are required to include three elements:
- Honest and relevant content about who is sending the message, what the subject is, and a physical address for the marketer.
- A method to "unsubscribe" from future spam.
- Compliance with a set of "sending behavior" practices to help inform and protect consumers, such as including at least one sentence of text and a valid header in each email.
You can file a complaint with the FCC if you receive:
- An unwanted commercial email message sent to your mobile phone.
- An autodialed or prerecorded voice message or text message sent to your mobile phone if you didn't consent to the message previously (or it doesn't involve an emergency).
- Any autodialed text message on your wireless device, or an unwanted commercial message to a non-wireless device from a telecommunications company or advertising a telecommunications company's products or services, if sent without your prior consent.
Federal Trade Commission rules restrict sending unwanted commercial email messages to computers. To find out more or report any spam you believe is fraudulent or deceptive, visit www.ftc.gov/spam.
Unsolicited advertisements sent to your fax machine are sometimes called "junk faxes." In most cases, FCC rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Junk Fax Prevention Act prohibit sending junk faxes.
Businesses are not allowed to send junk faxes to you unless you gave them permission or you have an established business relationship with them and voluntarily provided them with your fax number. A fax advertisement may be sent to a customer with an established business relationship if the sender also:
- Obtains the fax number directly from the recipient as part of an application, contact information form or membership renewal form, for example.
- Obtains the fax number from the recipient's directory, advertisement or Web site, unless the recipient has noted on such materials that it does not accept unsolicited fax advertisements.
- Has taken reasonable steps to verify that the recipient consented to have the number listed in a directory.
All fax advertisements must include a notice and contact information on the first page of the fax that allows recipients to "opt out" of future faxes. The opt-out information must be easy to find, and include a cost-free way to submit your opt out request to the sender, such as a toll-free phone number, local phone number, Web site address or email address. These opt out contact options must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When you send an opt out request, be sure to identify the sending and receiving fax number or numbers.
Senders must honor opt-out requests within thirty days.
Often fax advertisements are sent in bulk on behalf of a business or entity by separate professional fax broadcasters. Generally, the person or business on whose behalf a fax is sent or whose property, goods or services are advertised is liable for a violation of the junk fax rules, even if the person or business did not physically send the fax. A fax broadcaster also may be liable if it has a "high degree of involvement" in the sender's fax message, such as supplying the fax numbers to which the message is sent, providing a source of fax numbers, making representations about the legality of faxing to those numbers or advising about how to comply with the junk fax rules.
The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the junk fax rules, but does not award individual damages. If you receive a fax advertisement from someone who does not have an established business relationship with you, or to whom you have not given express permission to send you faxed ads, you can file a complaint with the FCC. Violators of the junk fax rules may be fined, but the FCC does not award damages to recipients of junk faxes.
File a Complaint
You have multiple options for filing complaint with the FCC:
- File your complaint online
- By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
- By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
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