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Regulators hang up on robo-calls

February 15, 2012|By James S. Granelli | Los Angeles Times
  • A man uses his new iPhone 4S at a store in San Francisco, Calif.
A man uses his new iPhone 4S at a store in San Francisco, Calif. (Robert Galbraith / Reuters )

Got your cellphones and your landline phones on the nation’s Do Not Call list, but you’re still getting telemarketing calls at dinner time? Especially those aggravating automated robo-calls?

The Federal Communications Commission clamped down on telemarketers Wednesday – even those you do business with, such as your bank – by placing severe limits on robo-calling and even texting.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Congress and his agency have long recognized the need for consumers to have control over the telemarketing calls that come into their homes, and the FCC has long had rules to put consumers in control.

"But despite these clear ground rules, too many telemarketers, aided by autodialers and prerecorded messages, have continued to call consumers who don’t want to hear from them," Genachowski said.

In a 3-0 vote, the commissioners adopted changes to its telemarketing rules that:

-- Require telemarketers to obtain prior written consent before placing robo-calls to consumers,

-- Eliminate the exemption for companies that have an "established business relationship" with consumers,

-- Require telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive opt-out mechanism during each robocall so consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling and

-- Strictly limit the number of so-called dead-air calls in which consumers answer phones and hear nothing.

Commissioner Robert M. McDowell bemoaned the seemingly constant telemarketing calls. "Sometimes, it seems like there’s no escape," he said.

McDowell noted that the rules, which also are more consistent with Federal Trade Commission regulations, were narrowly limited to telemarketing robo-calls. He said the changes do not affect current requirements about informational calls or calls involving charities or political speech.

And with the election season upon us, you’ll definitely want to take those calls from Mitt, Rick, Newt and Barack.

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