U.S.

May 3, 2012

New rules for robocalls now in place

Staff Judge Advocate Office

Businesses now need a peron’s written permission before they can call with prerecorded telemarketing messages — also known as robocalls — regardless of whether the individual being called already has a relationship with the business. If a business wants to call someone to deliver prerecorded messages, it must tell them clearly that it is asking for their written permission to call with these kinds of messages.

People may refuse or give permission by signing a paper, responding to an email, pressing a keypad prompt during a live call with a sales agent or clicking a button on a website to show that they will allow these messages from a business. A business can’t require them to agree to these calls in order to get goods or services. If they decide they will accept prerecorded messages, they get to choose the number to which these calls are placed.

If someone has agreed to allow prerecorded telemarketing messages, they may also change their mind and ask that the messages be stopped. Businesses using prerecorded messages must tell those being called at the beginning of the message how they can stop future calls; and they must provide an automated opt-out that a person can activate by voice or keypress throughout the call. If the message could be left on voicemail or an answering machine, businesses also must provide a toll-free number at the beginning of the message that will connect to an automated opt-out system that a person can call to opt out any time.

If someone chooses to opt out while receiving a prerecorded message, the call should be disconnected immediately, and the person being called should not receive any more calls from the business that sponsored the prerecorded call.

If someone calls a toll-free number to opt out, the business should allow the individual to opt out by pressing a button on their telephone keypad or by asking to opt out without being required to speak to a sales agent. The business that sponsored the calls must honor the request immediately and prevent future telemarketing calls to the individual’s telephone number.

Some prerecorded messages still are permitted under these rules such as messages that are purely informational. That means a person still will receive calls to let him or her know their flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment, or messages about a delayed school opening. But the business doing the calling isn’t allowed to promote the sale of any goods or services. Prerecorded messages from a business that is contacting an individual to collect a debt also are permitted, but messages offering to sell a person services to reduce their debt are barred.

Other exceptions include political calls and calls from certain healthcare providers. For example, pharmacies are permitted to use prerecorded messages to provide prescription refill reminders. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.

If you receive prerecorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to get them, file a complaint with the FTC at donotcall.gov or by phone at 1.888.382.1222.




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