FCC Approves New Rules Curbing "Robocalls"

In a move that will no doubt please many consumers, on February 15, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission approved a new set of rules aimed to substantially curb the practice of telemarketers to engage in "robocalling", or the placing of automatic, pre-recorded calls. The key development in the FCC's 48 page Report and Order is that now, prior to initiating a "robo call", a telemarketer must obtain the consumer's express written consent.  This new requirement of express written consent supplants the previous robocalling regime, where merely having an "existing business relationship" with a consumer was sufficient to create an exemption from the ban against robocalling; that exemption has now been eliminated under the rules. 

In addition to the new requirement of express written consent, robocallers must also offer the consumer an "opt-out" mechanism to provide them with the ability to end the call speedily, as well as a way for the consumer to have their telephone number automatically added to the telemarketer's "do not call" list.

The new rules don't entirely eliminate robocalling absent express written consent, however; there are still some permissible exemptions. For instance, non-profit organizations, schools, political groups and other groups initiating "informational calls" (such as notification of an emergency) can still initiate robocalls to a consumer's landline (but can no longer robocall a cellular phone).

The new rules (which have been enacted pursuant to the FCC's rulemaking authority under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act) don't take effect immediately. There are two phases: First, within 90 days from the date the new rules are published in the Federal Register, telemarketers are required to implement the above-mentioned "opt-out" mechanism. Then, one year from the publication date, robocalls must obtain express written consent, and can no longer rely on the "existing business relationship" exception.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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