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FTC to ban most telemarketing 'robocalls' Sept. 1

August 28, 2009|Sherine El Madany

The Federal Trade Commission is sending most of those pesky "robocalls" to the junk heap starting Tuesday.

Such prerecorded commercial calls offering services and products such as carpet cleaning or car warranties will be a thing of the past unless telemarketers have written permission from consumers that they want to receive these calls, the commission said Thursday. Violators 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," Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. Previously, telemarketers had to tell consumers how to opt out of receiving robocalls.

There are a few exceptions, though. The commission will exempt calls that aren't trying to sell goods and services to consumers; that category would include debt collections and those providing information, such as flight cancellations and delivery notices.

Other calls not covered include those from politicians, charities that contact consumers directly, banks, insurers, phone companies, surveys and certain healthcare messages such as prescription notifications. The commission doesn't have jurisdiction over them.

Calls made by humans rather than automated systems also will be allowed unless the phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Consumers who receive an unauthorized call can file complaints with the commission online at www.ftc.gov or by calling (877) FTC-HELP.

"If consumers think they're being harassed by robocallers," Leibowitz said, "they need to let us know, and we will go after them."

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sherine.elmadany@latimes .com

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