FTC rules outlawing those damned annoying robocalls hit Sept. 1

Few things annoy consumers more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year, FTC states

Nearly a year after announcing the plan, new Federal Trade Commission rules prohibiting most robocalls are set to take effect Tuesday, Sept. 1. 

With the rules,  prerecorded commercial telemarketing robocalls will be prohibited, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls.  Hopefully the rules will go a long way to helping consumers eat dinner in peace without being interrupted by amazingly annoying telemarketer blather or in this case prerecorded blather. 

The change will not affect your ability to continue to receive calls that deliver informational prerecorded messages - notifying you, for example, that your flight has been cancelled, or that you have a service appointment. Such purely "informational" calls are not covered by the TSR because they do not attempt to sell the called party any goods or services, the FTC said.

The requirement is part of amendments to the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) that were announced a year ago. 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. 

"American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year," said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC in a release. "Starting September 1, this bombardment of prerecorded pitches, senseless solicitations, and malicious marketing will be illegal. If consumers think they're being harassed by robocallers, they need to let us know, and we will go after them."

The FTC in May took action against some robocallers by asking a federal court to shut down companies that have been bombarding consumers with hundreds of millions of allegedly deceptive robocalls in an effort to sell vehicle service contracts. 

According to the FTC, the robocalls have prompted tens of thousands of complaints from consumers who are either on the Do Not Call Registry or asked not to be called. Five telephone numbers associated with the defendants have generated a total of 30,000 Do Not Call complaints. Consumers received the robocalls at home, work, and on their cell phones, sometimes several times in one day. Businesses, government offices and even 911 dispatchers also have been subjected to the calls, the FTC said.

The FTC complaint named as defendants Voice Touch and a company affiliated with Voice Touch called Network Foundations .  A second complaint named Transcontinental Warranty, which sells extended auto warranties. In its complaints, the FTC said the companies are operating a massive telemarketing scheme that uses random, pre-recorded phone calls to deceive consumers into thinking that their vehicle's warranty is about to expire. Consumers who respond to the robocalls are pressured to purchase extended service contracts for their vehicles, which the telemarketers falsely portray as an extension of the manufacturer's original warranty.

However for those who have called on the FTC to help eliminate the other phone scourge - political robocalls  - the new rules will not help.  Calls from political campaigns are considered protected speech the FTC said.  Ultimately consumers may get some help from state legislatures as many are regulating or looking to pass laws for more control over automated or robocall computer-generated phone-calling campaigns. One group, the National Political Do Not Contact Registry is campaigning to outlaw political robocalling altogether.

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