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Telemarketing Robocalls Ban

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Last year, the Federal Trade Commission announced changes to its rules relating to telemarketing.  Some of those changes just took effect on September 1, 2009.

Among those changes is a prohibition on certain “robocalls” – calls made by computers called robocallers that use pre-recorded messages to bombard you and millions of other American consumers.  They’ve been used to try to sell you loan modifications, new mortgages, credit cards, sweepstakes, and all sorts of other products or services, including many that were not legitimate.

Previously, you were required to put your phone number on the “Do Not Call” list to avoid such calls.  Now, telemarketers are required to have written permission from you before they can call you.

The penalty for making a prohibited call is very significant – up to $16,000 per phone call!

But there’s a catch – and it’s a very big one.

There are several types of calls to which these rules do not apply, such as prerecorded messages with flight information, delivery information for things you have ordered, prescription information from your pharmacy, messages from your child’s school, and other “informational” messages.  This makes sense, since these are the types of messages you probably want to receive.

However, certain businesses are beyond the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission and are thus exempt from these rules.  These exempt businesses and groups include:

  • Debt collectors – if they are calling about actual bills and are not trying to sell you something
  • Politicians
  • Banks
  • Telephone companies
  • Charities
  • Insurance companies

As you can see, this is a very big loophole.  Because of it, I doubt that most consumers will see any big difference in the amount of calls they will get from telemarketers.  And, there may well be an increase in junk mail, as telemarketers focus more on other ways of getting your attention.