The Federal Communications Commission has set a deadline for companies engaged in telemarketing, requiring them to get permission from consumers before calling them using robocalls.
The new rules go into effect next week, on October 16. The FCC (News - Alert) originally approved the rules in February 2012, but they later had to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
“Prior written express consent must be obtained in the form of a written agreement, containing the telephone number and signature of the person called, that includes a ‘clear and conspicuous disclosure’ that by signing the agreement the person authorizes telemarketing calls from the seller using an autodialer or a prerecorded message,” Ernest C. Cooper, an attorney with Mintz Levin (News - Alert) Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC, explained. “The agreement must also include notice that the person is not required to sign the agreement ‘as a condition of purchasing any property, goods, or services.’The signature on the consent agreement may be an electronic signature, which can include a signature obtained by e-mail, website form, or text message.”
In other words, telemarketers will have to get permission from consumers before calling them, and consumers won’t have to buy anything to make telemarketers go away, either. This includes both landline and mobile phones.
Telemarketers are going to have to make a good case if they want to convince phone subscribers to let them send them prerecorded messages. Most people find these “robocalls” annoying.
As with many rules, there are always exceptions. Healthcare-related calls are already covered under HIPAA and exempt from the new rules. Non-profit and non-advertising-related calls to mobile phones will require permission, but it will not have to be written.
Violators of these rules can face steep penalties. Bank of America was recently assessed a $32 million fine for sending harassing collections robocalls to mobile phones, which was already illegal under the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Companies utilizing auto or predictive dialers to reach customers will be well served to get acquainted with the new rules and take the appropriate steps to maintain compliance.
Edited by Blaise McNamee