No More Telemarketing Robocalls?

Telemarketers now need written permission to make automated sales calls.

Aug. 31, 2009 — -- The only thing more annoying than a telemarketing call is a telemarketing call made by a robot. You know, the kind where you pick up the phone and a prerecorded message assaults you with information about some product? Well, there's reason to celebrate.

A new rule goes into effect Tuesday that should end those annoying robocalls.

The Federal Trade Commission will require telemarketers to get a consumer's written permission in order to make automated sales calls to them. Who would grant such permission? Nobody! So telemarketing robocalls will effectively die Sept. 1. As Dorothy and the people of Emerald City said in "The Wizard of Oz," ding dong the witch is dead.

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I've been at this awhile, however, so the cynic in me can envision some situations where people might still receive robocalls. Maybe you sign up for a service and buried in the contract somewhere is verbiage that you agree to receive robocalls.

In addition, there are some businesses that have been willing to break the rules and call people on the National Do Not Call Registry, so they might ignore this rule as well.

If that happens, the FTC is vowing to investigate aggressively.

"American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "Starting Sept. 1, this bombardment of prerecorded pitches, senseless solicitations, and malicious marketing will be illegal. If consumers think they're being harassed by robocallers, they need to let us know, and we will go after them."

Bear in mind that informational robocalls will still be allowed.

For example, prerecorded messages that let you know when your new furniture is going to be delivered, or that your flight has been delayed are OK. Debt collectors will also still be able to use robocalling as a tool for contacting people, because their calls do not promote a product or service. Other exceptions: calls from politicians, charities, banks and the phone company itself are not prohibited by the new rule.

Fight Back Against Robocalls

Businesses that break the new rule, an amendment to the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule, will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call. If you receive a telemarketing robocall, the FTC asks that you file a complaint either on the Web site or by calling 1-888-382-1222.