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New rules for robocalls

Updated federal regulations require that telemarketers get your written permission before sending you prerecorded messages. Political campaigns and charities are exempt.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 17, 2012 1:40PM

This post comes from Matt Brownell at partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyIt's bad enough getting an unwanted call from a telemarketer, but it's even more annoying when the "person" on the other end of the line is a prerecorded message.


The good news is that the government just took a decisive step in regulating the practice of robocalling.(Post continues below.)

Under new rules issued this week by the Federal Communications Commission, telemarketers will be required to get express written consent from consumers before they're allowed to make robocalls. Telemarketers will also be forbidden from claiming that consent is implied based on a prior business relationship with the consumer -- for instance, if you've previously done business with an Internet provider.


Here are answers to some questions you might have about the new rules:

If I give consent, can I later change my mind?

While we can't imagine that many people will choose to opt in to receiving robocalls from telemarketers, if you do decide you'd like to hear what a company has to say and later change your mind, you'll be able to take your number off the list.


"Should consumers change their minds and decide that they no longer want to receive even those calls, they will soon be able to easily opt out at any point during a call through the automated functionality we now require," explained Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn in a statement.


When will the new rules go into effect?

Before the rules can become official, the Office of Management and Budget must publish its approval in the Federal Register. Once that happens, the clock starts ticking: Telemarketers will have exactly 12 months to implement the new rule requiring express written consent from consumers, and the "prior business relationship" exemption will be phased out during the same time period.


But another deadline will come more quickly for robocallers: Within 90 days of the new rules becoming official, telemarketers will have to implement a new opt-out mechanism that allows consumers to opt out of receiving robocalls in the middle of a call.


What if a telemarketer breaks the rules?

If after 90 days you get a robocall without an opt-out mechanism, or after 12 months you get a robocall you didn't consent to, your best bet is to complain directly to the FCC. Visit, select the "Telemarketing, Prerecorded Messages, Caller ID Spoofing, and Do-Not-Call" option, and follow the instructions to file your complaint.


Are any robocalls exempt?

The new rules apply only to telemarketers, which means certain classes of robocalls will still be allowed. For instance, if your pharmacy wants to inform you that your prescription is available, it may use an automatic calling service, as can public schools that wish to inform you of school closings. And calls made by charities or political campaigns will still be legal under the new rules, with or without your consent.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:


Feb 20, 2012 8:02AM

Why are political and charity groups exempt. They are the worst abusers and NO ONE should be allowed to ignore a do not call list

Feb 17, 2012 8:20PM
  Political campaigns should not be exempt.  They annoy me most of all.  If I don't recognize the calling number or if it is blocked, I just hit the # sign repeatedly till they hang up.  I don't want calls from anyone I don't know.
Feb 17, 2012 9:14PM
What good does it do?  I have been complaing to the FCC for over a year now about robo telemarketing calls on my cell phone and have never even gotten an answer from them, let alone stopping them. 
Go to Google and type in 920-602-0879 and see how many complaints there are.  The same company "cardholder services" has about 20 other numbers they have called me from too.  I have asked them to stop, I have called them back and asked them to stop, I have contacted the FCC, my congress rep, the state attorney general and every newsgroup I could find.  It makes no difference...they do not stop calling and nobody enforces the existing law.  So what good is more law on paper going to do?  
Feb 17, 2012 9:07PM
This may not be politically correct, but I am sick of charities calling our house.  It is always on the caller ID as an unknown name unknown number or an 800 number.  At times, I avoid answering those, but we have a couple different medical issues within our family members in the house, and occasionally it may be our insurance company or the billing department calling us back from our hospital, etc.  I can't avoid answering the phone forever.  And, my reason for being annoyed by charities--I get up to 5 per week.  All different places.  And, they call back every month to two months.  No I don't have money to donate, no I don't have $20 to donate, I don't care if $20 isn't much--to you it is not much, to me that is a payment to a doctor.  No I cannot afford a magazine subscription to support your charity.  Ironically, we just donated a bunch of clothes and other objects a week ago and do not have anything to donate now.  And that ends up being repeated with basically every call...other than the donation part--which is usually a time thing, maybe it was a week, now it is 2 weeks ago, etc.  If we opted to donate something everytime these places called or donated cash--we would be homeless and not own anything.  There should be an option to OPT OUT, just as with the political campaign garbage too.  If you have a phone you ARE paying for, you should have the option of NOT having organizations calling you when you never provided your phone number in the first place!
Feb 17, 2012 11:16PM

These calls are now coming out of Canada - can the US do anything to stop these?


Neither charity or political calls should be allowed.


Keep in mind - I went into Sears - bought a pair of shoes.  At the register a clerk ask for my phone number - I gave her an out of use landline.  She told me to sign an electronic pad just to confirm that she put the phone number in correctly.  I read the text on the pad - it stated that I was giving permission to get text messages from Sears on my cell phone.


Sears trained this woman to be a "bald faced" LIAR - won't be buying anything at Sears in the near future.

Feb 17, 2012 11:01PM
Robocalls should be illegal regardless who calls. I hate the credit card robocalls, political robocalls and especially charity robocalls. If I want to buy or give I will do it by myself.
Feb 20, 2012 10:03AM
All robo calls should be abolished. I hate to get political calls, I don't need someone suggesting who I should vote for. Also Charities are offending, you help them out when you can afford to, and then they don't leave you alone and keep asking for more, won't take I can't afford to contribute any longer as an answer.
Feb 20, 2012 2:40PM
Charities and political campaigns are some of the largest offenders for me.  I don't want them calling either.  In fact lets focus on stopping those two groups before the others.
Feb 17, 2012 11:13PM
How about bill collectors?  No one mentioned them.  Not a day goes by when I don't get a call from a 'bot asking me, "This is a message for...John A Smith...if you are not...John A Smith, hang up right now, by continuing to hold, you acknowledge that you are....John A Smith...

Ever get one of those?  Even if I actually owed them money, I can't imagine anyone actually responding to such nonsense.  GOD BLESS CALLER ID--I haven't answered the phone in 10 years.

Feb 17, 2012 10:56PM

I have a landline and a cell phone, I seldom use my landline and that is the phone that receives constant telemarketing calls. This phone has a answering machine, so I decided to edit my recording to the following message.

You have reached a telemarketer.  I am in the middle of a meal right now, if you leave your personal name and personal number, I will call you at your house at an inconvenient time,. Take my name off of your list. My friends and family can reach me at an alternate number. Please wait for the beep.


Now I can sit back and listen to the confused responses on the other end.

Feb 20, 2012 9:10AM
The "Do Not Call" list was a waste of time. No one enforces it.
Feb 20, 2012 2:16PM
I find it interesting that political calls are still legal. Do you think lobbyists and politicians have anything to do with this? Bunch of scum bags!
Feb 18, 2012 1:32AM
Robocalls should be illeagal from any source. Charaties and Political organizations should be calling from lists only in person so we can give them a good peice of our minds. The FCC needs to enforce the no call lists in place now, which they are not doing, the do not call regrestry is a joke,
Feb 20, 2012 7:30AM
I keep my phone off unless I'm calling someone it's gotten that bad, and I also had to have all text messages blocked on my cells because they the Cellular companies charge those text messages to my phone, and I would run out of minutes even if I did not use my phone, these people that do these robo crap needs a good azz whooping, if I could grab them through that phone I'd be in prison for sure.
Feb 20, 2012 12:18PM
The Don't Call is pretty much ignored by telemarketers because the government does not enforce it.
Feb 20, 2012 2:26PM
Charities and Political Campaigns should not be exempt! It is called invasion of privacy. I do not wish to be bothered by candidate calls whom I choose not to vote for. I donate to charities of my choice and do not need to be harassed by local Police charity collections or other charities! I also do not appreciate voice mails left to my cell phone which cost me minutes to listen to!
Feb 20, 2012 10:50AM
For those of you who don't know, there is probably a feature on you cell phone that blocks all "unknown number" calls and texts.  I have used that with much success.  Sadly, there is no such feature on my home phone, so, I hope with this new legislation, unknown and blocked callers will no longer be calling me.   I am a day sleeper, and get extremely annoyed with those robo calls.  Sometimes, I will answer said call and, when speaking with the telemarketer, I ask them for their home number, so that I may call them at a time during the overnight hours, just to check in with them and see how they are doing.  Some have stopped calling.  Otherwise, I just don't answer the phone, and the ringing stops within 2 or 3 rings.  But, it is still annoying, because, once awake, I find it difficult to go back to sleep.
Feb 20, 2012 12:21PM

I never donate to a charity by phone and I make this clear when they call.  Many charities receive very little of your donation, sometimes as little as 10 percent, telemarketing company gets remainder for administration costs.  Those we donate to get an unsolicited check in the mail.  Since I began questioning the amount that actually goes to the charity we receive very few calls.

Feb 20, 2012 1:17PM

I've re-started a tactic I used several years ago and had added it to my spam replies.  "Company, you have decided to use my communications channel (email, cellphone, etc.) for advertsing purposes.  As you have seen fit to use this channel I wish to inform you further usage of said channel will be charged back to you at $1000.00 per incident.  Further usage of the channel is agreement to these terms and conditions"


Its amazing how quickly unwanted commuications stop.  --and yes I would go after violaters in small claims court.  It cost them much more to defend such than its worth to fight :-)

Feb 20, 2012 3:11PM

The robocalls from Rachel informing people that they may qualify for lower credit card interests is insidious.  I receive minimally 2 to 4 times a day on my cell phones.  The worst part is the origin phone numbers rotate from Idaho, California, Arizona, Iowa, Texas, and Illinois. 


On one time, I spoke to a live person.  Strung them on that I owed $20K, and needed immediate relief.  They checked my address and said "F___ You" and hung up. Then the numbers calls recheted up to 6 to 8 per day.


Finally stopped it, when I forwarded my cell phone to the State Attorney General.

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