Robocalls Prohibited by New FTC Rules, as of September 1, 2009

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The FTC has significantly altered the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) with two amendments. The first prevents unsolicited robocalls and the second modifies the method of calculating the maximum permissible “call abandonment” rate.

Both went into affect on September 1, 2009. And you can read the press releases from the FTC directly here and here.

“After September 1, sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.”

This significantly stiffens an earlier TSR restriction on robocalls:

“Under a previous rule that took effect on December 1, 2008, telemarketing robocall messages by businesses covered by the TSR must tell consumers how to opt-out of further calls at the start of the message, and provide an automated opt-out mechanism that is voice or keypress activated. Prerecorded messages left on answering machines must also provide a toll-free number that connects to the automated opt-out mechanism.”

Needless to say if you are in the telemarketing business then make sure not to leave prerecorded commercial messages, especially if you are a lead vendor or client of ours.

Interestingly enough it does not prohibit these types of calls of “informational” calls, like flight updates or other customer service related courtesy messages. The amendments also continue to exclude certain organizations that are not covered by the TSR, like politicians, banks, telephone companies, and charities.

 

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I am not sure prohibiting the technology is fixing the behavior. If they are concerned, as their press release indicates, about harassing and malicious telemarketing calls then they should define and ban those.

Unfortunately, by banning the technology for all for-profit businesses you are penalizing legitimate efficiency for the sins of a few bad apples. Meanwhile, the offending businesses will just simply look for cheap call center solutions to live dial the same calls they were pre-recording.

Sometimes these laws hit the symptoms and not the problems. What do you think?

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