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Most Automated Telemarketing Robocalls Prohibited by FTC

New Rule Effective September 1, 2009


Most prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls - also called robocalls - will be prohibited after Sept. 1, 2009, unless the telemarketer has obtained written permission from consumers to place the calls, under amendments to the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

After Sept. 1, 2009, sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded robocalls messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties up to $16,000 per call.

Not all Robocalls are Prohibited
Automated calls NOT prohibited after Sept. 1, 2009 include:
  • Calls that deliver purely "informational" messages. For example, calls that inform consumers that their airline flight has been canceled, that their order to a store has arrived, or that their child's school opening had been delayed
  • Debt collection calls that do not seek to promote the sale of any goods or services
  • Calls from politicians, banks, telephone carriers, and most charitable organizations, and certain health care messages
Unlike conventional telemarketing calls, non-exempt robocalls are prohibited whether or not the consumer had previously done business with the seller.

Opt-out Method Required
Since Dec. 1, 2008, telemarketing robocall messages by businesses covered by the TSR must tell consumers how to opt-out of further calls at the start of the message, and provide an automated opt-out mechanism that is voice or keypress-activated. Prerecorded messages left on answering machines must also provide a toll-free number that connects to the automated opt-out mechanism.

How to Turn in Robocall Violators
After Sept. 1, 2009, consumers who receive non-allowed prerecorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to get them should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, either online via the ftc.gov Web site or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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