Telemarketing poppycock elimination laws take effect today

New tools to battle the ever-present telemarketing drivel take effect today.  The main weapon is the requirement that telemarketers must now include a prerecorded message that offers a quick and easy way to opt-out of receiving future calls. The opt-out must work for consumers who answer these calls in person and for those whose answering machines or voicemail services receive the calls, the Federal trade Commission stated.

Once the person has opted out, his or her phone number must be automatically added to the in-house Do Not Call list of the calling seller or fundraiser. Then the call immediately must be disconnected so that the consumer's line is cleared, the FTC said.

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 Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) because they do not attempt to sell the called party any goods or services, the FTC said.

However for those who have called on the FTC to help eliminate the other phone scourge - political robocalls  - the new rule will not help.  Calls from political campaigns are considered protected speech an FTC representative said.

In September the FTC changed its venerable Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) to help consumers control future telemarketing calls. Aside form the opt-out rule, another requirement prohibits telemarketing calls that deliver prerecorded messages to anyone who has not agreed in advance to receive such calls. But until September 1, 2009, sellers may continue to use prerecorded messages in calling consumers with whom they have an established business relationship. After that date, sellers may use prerecorded messages only in calls to consumers who have expressly agreed in advance to receive them.

The new rules come in part from over 14,000 comments the agency received on the subjects since it last changed or proposed changes to the rules in 2006. 

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