Gov't to Crack Down on Telemarketing Robocalls

Dennis Faas's picture

In an attempt to limit companies that make automated marketing calls to consumers, a government agency has introduced tougher restrictions and standards. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said the move was necessary because companies had failed to take heed of the principles behind the existing rules.

The new restrictions and standards involve automated calls, often called 'robocalls' because a robot (computer program) makes them, in which consumers answer their phones and immediately hear recorded messages.

Marketers find such tactics profitable because they can conduct whole campaigns without hiring people either to make the calls or to engage in conversations with consumers. (Source:

Robocall Permission Must Now Be Explicit

The biggest change in the new rules is that companies can no longer make such calls without explicit written permission from consumers.

A previous loophole had allowed companies to unleash robocalls without restriction as soon as they established a "business relationship" with a consumer: when a person became a bona fide customer, for example.

The changes also mean companies must offer interactive mechanisms for consumers to terminate a 'robocall,' and to opt-out from future calls. Such options will most likely be exercised by pressing a button on the phone.

"Ghost" Calls Must Now Be A Rarity

There is also a new limit on "ghost" calls, in which a consumer answers a call and gets only silence. This has caused distress among consumers who feel it may be a prank or harassing call.

"Ghost" calls happen when a company employs people to talk to consumers, but has robots dialing more calls than the available representatives can handle at any one time, figuring that only a portion of the calls will be answered.

Under the new rules, at least 97 per cent of marketing calls answered by consumers must have a person available to speak within two seconds. This standard will be applied over the duration of a telephone campaign, or over every 30 day period, whichever is shorter.

However, there is one notable exception to the new rules that may be particularly relevant this year: the robo-calling restrictions will apply only to commercial marketing.

In other words, political candidates, campaigns and charities are still allowed to make "ghost" calls without limits of any kind. (Source:

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