The title of this column could be mistaken for the next big blockbuster sci-fi thriller movie…hardly. It’s more like a person’s worst nightmare. What exactly is a robocall? A robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot, hence the name. Robocalls are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns, and some robocalls use personalized audio messages to simulate an actual personal phone call.
I’ve noticed for the past few years that politicians from far and near have started using this tactic to try to garner votes. If you are like me, this tactic is not very effective as I have learned that if I hear a pause before the recorded message starts, I simply hang up the telephone.
During the recent primary election it almost got comical around the Gardner household. I started making a game out of the calls by asking the question, “I wonder how many we will receive today?” In addition I believe that the more we can learn about candidates running for the office, the better decisions we will make in the voting booth.
However, when the calls started coming late at night and during the weekend, even on Sunday, the robocalls were no laughing matter. In fact they were completely infuriating at times and unwelcomed.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) places limits on unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to landline home telephones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages to wireless numbers, emergency numbers, and patient rooms at health care facilities. These calls are known as “robocalls.” The FCC recently took steps to give consumers additional control over the robocalls they receive with new rules that went into effect in October 2013.
The FCC’s new rules impose additional requirements for how a business must obtain your consent before it may make a prerecorded telemarketing call to your residential phone number or make an autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing call or text to your wireless number. The new rules require that telemarketers first obtain your written consent to receive such calls or messages, on paper or through electronic means, including website forms, a telephone keypress, or a recording of your oral consent.
Another change is that telemarketers will no longer be able to make telemarketing robocalls to your landline home telephone based solely on an “established business relationship” with you. You may establish such a relationship when you purchase something from a business or contact the business to ask questions. Businesses must now have your prior express written consent before making telemarketing robocalls to you, even if they have an established business relationship with you. (Note: Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robocalls to your wireless phone based solely on an “established business relationship” with you).
The new rules also require telemarketers to allow you to opt out of receiving additional telemarketing robocalls immediately during a prerecorded telemarketing call through an automated menu. The opt-out mechanism must be announced at the outset of the message and must be available throughout the duration of the call. This new requirement means that you will not have to hang up and make a separate call in order to stop further telemarketing robocalls.
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