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FTC Rules Outlawing Robocalls Go Into Effect Next Week 277

Posted by timothy
from the not-a-moment-too-soon dept.
coondoggie writes "Nearly a year after announcing the plan, new Federal Trade Commission rules prohibiting most robocalls are set to take effect Tuesday, Sept. 1. With the rules, prerecorded commercial telemarketing robocalls will be prohibited, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls. Hopefully the rules will go a long way to helping consumers eat dinner in peace without being interrupted by amazingly annoying telemarketer blather or in this case prerecorded blather. The requirement is part of amendments to the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) that were announced a year ago. After September 1, sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call."
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FTC Rules Outlawing Robocalls Go Into Effect Next Week

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  • by patmandu (247443) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:36PM (#29226323)

    ...or did they make sure to keep that loophole in there for themselves again...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:40PM (#29226357)

    They left the loophole open. "Call from political candidates are considered protected speech". Really, what did you expect?

  • Won't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedMage (136286) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:43PM (#29226383) Homepage

    For the most annoying types (scams mostly) this won't matter any. There's already a "Do not call" mechanism that's ignored. The legitimate ones will obey, the rest will just continue on.
    Yes, it gives some teeth for when you actually catch them, but for the millions of us who have been getting the "Your credit rating will be affected!!!" calls lately, I doubt it will make any difference to our evening meals.

  • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:47PM (#29226399) Homepage Journal

    Presumably, "opt-in" counts as "in writing", and my library will continue to robocall to announce that my book on hold is available. But on the flip side, I can see all sorts of obscure checkboxes when you order online that enable robocalls should you not notice and check/uncheck them.

  • loopholes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:50PM (#29226413)

    The problem is that any language they put in the bill to protect mass "information only" calls, can also be used as justification by clever spammers. "But we weren't trying to sell anything... we are trying to educate prequalified members of the public on this issue, and were merely pointing them to our web site filled with articles from experts and offer them the opportunity to join our community of interested citizens absolutely free of charge."

  • Re:Won't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:53PM (#29226435)

    There's already a "Do not call" mechanism that's ignored.

    Junk phone calls are just a small fraction of what they were before the list, I'm surprised how effective it has been. So, I'm all for closing remaining loopholes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:54PM (#29226445)

    Exactly. I somehow highly doubt "in writing" means actually writing a physical letter, or even personally writing an email. It'll be more along the line of "you must accept the license agreement where the telemarketing clause is buried on page 281. Bonus points if those license agreements you "sign" make you expressly grant the right to the provider to extend your "consent" to third parties (which may then do the same), and where each party may modify the agreement at any time without notification, which you hereby agree to automatically accept.

  • Canada (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:05PM (#29226525)
    Most of the robo calls (all scams) that I get in Canada come from the US. I hope that this is not allowed. Also will they just move to India or whatnot and phone North America? The best place to block these calls is at the Telco level. Have people dial a code when crap calls come in. Then after a handful of crap calls are noted the number is blocked for all people who opt into this system for all users of the Telco. This would not only block scams and whatnot but it would block all numbers that other people have indicated are obnoxious as all DNC lists seem to exclude political and charity calling. I don't want anyone calling me who isn't a friend or family. I didn't get the phone for any one else to phone me so any telco that will block all crap calls will win my business.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:09PM (#29226565) Journal
    I'd rather get 10 spam messages than one phone call. The phone call distracts me from my day to day activities, while email is a mode I put myself to check. I'm glad they're outlawing robocalls.
  • by msimm (580077) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:19PM (#29226643) Homepage
    Calls from political campaigns are considered protected speech

    But who knew we'd already granted computers rights?!!
  • Re:slow down (Score:1, Insightful)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:24PM (#29226667)

    What detractors against regulation miss is that their creed, if enacted, would also eliminate regulations that personally benefit them. It's just another aspect of the Right's extraordinary ability to convince otherwise-rational people to act against their own interests. Through careful stoking of innate fears via the media, the Right induces a pathology in approximately 33% [pollingreport.com] of the population.

    Crap! The drugs are wearing off!

    RON PAUL! RON PAUL! THE GOVERNMENT WILL KILL YOUR BABIES!

  • Penalities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:34PM (#29226701)

    I wouldn't consider paying a fine (in this case, $16K/incident) to be much of a punishment. Sure, the robocaller stops bothering me, but once the robocaller is fined the government keeps it all. Every time a robocaller calls me, I'm the one who is inconvenienced, so why don't I get anything for helping to bring one of these guys down? It seems to me that if I report the number and it gets successfully prosecuted, I should get a cut of the reward. You can take the $16K fine and split it up equally among the people who reported that same number, and everyone wins.

    It will never happen that way, though.

  • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:36PM (#29226709) Homepage

    scumbags don't call me, but politicians do

    You contradict yourself.

  • Re:Penalities (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:47PM (#29226765)

    Yes, but that's $16k you don't have to pay in taxes.

    Yes, but the FTC is already funded with tax money as part of the budget. The 16K is just free money to them. Do you really think they should get a $16k bonus per incident to do what they should be doing anyway? Robocallers have gotten more and more prevalent in recent years and no one does anything until it becomes a huge problem. It's not like they are funded entirely by penalties... if they were, they would come down hard on every robocaller they could find and there likely wouldn't be any robocallers left to bother anyone.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:48PM (#29226769)

    They left the loophole open. "Call from political candidates are considered protected speech". Really, what did you expect?

    system is broken. time for overhaul.

    free speech is when I ask you a question and you are allowed to answer and not fear for your life.

    free speech is NOT the right to call me and force some stupid idea down my throat.

    there IS a difference and its not subtle, either.

    in no reasoning person's mind could a robocall, or ANY kind of political call, be called 'protected'.

    if that's protected, I should be able to call a judge on his personal phone line and complain about his judgements. call my congresscritters on their personal lines and complain and 'sell' them on my way of doing things.

    they want access to us? give us parity and we'll talk. so to speak.

    no? not going to work that way?

    time to redo the system. maybe from scratch, if that's what it takes.

  • Re:slow down (Score:1, Insightful)

    by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:07PM (#29226867)

    Oh, fuck you. Obama's policies, if he can get undemocratic senate [newyorker.com] to pass them, would obviously benefit the common man. That his approval rating is falling is a refection of the skill of the satanic Republican provocateurs and not of any rational problem with his approach.

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:18PM (#29226915)

    Presumably, "opt-in" counts as "in writing", and my library will continue to robocall to announce that my book on hold is available.

    Since that is an entity you have a pre-existing relationship with, I don't think they'd be blocked anyway. Just like I'm sure you'll still receive automated collections calls from creditors you're past due with. They aren't telemarketers making cold calls.

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) * on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:25PM (#29226947)

    Don't be embarrassed for not getting politics shoved down your throat. You can hang up on a robot, and they wouldn't even know.

    I think this is the wrong way to go about this. They should require every line used for marketing calls to show up on caller ID as "Marketing", and every call for political reasons to show up as "Political". Then people don't have to answer at all. You can add in a registry to keep people from calling, or you can require phone companies to block numbers with that name on the ID to a given number if you really want. The phone company idea would be my preference, as it's really easy to block numbers on our AT&T wireless lines on the net, and there should be no reason you can't do it on a land line just as easily.

  • Re:Shit! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:29PM (#29226977)

    Hell. I might just stop answering my phone entirely.

    You answer your phone? I answer my phone for my immediate family. Period. Everyone else who bothers calling get's my voice mail--and they know that. If I ever get a call from spam it goes on my spam list. If people want to get in touch with me, they need to learn how to use email. I simply don't get bothered any more.

    Questions you may have: (Q) what if it is an emergency? (A) dial 9-1-1 for emergencies; (Q) but my land line doesn't have all those fancy features (A) turn off your land line ringer.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:32PM (#29226985) Journal
    How can you claim "free press" if the press is computer driven? Obviously only people using 18th century printing technology should enjoy freedom of the press...

    Robocalls from "Americans United for Jesus and Kittens and Hey Did You Know My Opponent Loves Pedophiles?" annoy me; but trying to weasel-word your way around freedom of speech(freedom of explicitly political speech, no less) based on technological quibbling is Bad Idea.

    "Sure, you have the right to speak, go ahead. However, I don't remember any 'right to have a packet encoded representation of speech make it to the other end of the wire' in the constitution..." "Sorry citizen, freedom of the press applies only to impact printed documents, don't you know what 'press' means? Inkjet or laser printed subversive literature will get you 20 to life..."
  • Re:Unenforceable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quarterbuck (1268694) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:59PM (#29227145)
    Which is why I think the best way would be to go after the product being peddled rather than the company making the call. The same would work for spam too.
    Make a law that says that any product company advertised through spam/robocalls will be investigated and if found in violation of spam/call rules will be fined. That'll stop the contracting out of spamming duties to offshore/multiple shell companies.
  • by EEBaum (520514) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:07AM (#29227177) Homepage
    Perhaps they'll attach a notice to the Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon that arrives in the mail on days ending in "y".
  • by dword (735428) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:44AM (#29227395)

    What about calling from another country? I'm from Europe, but I've heard that the telemarketers solved most of their "problems" by simply using call centers from other countries. They haven't done anything, except outlawing robocalls from US telemarketers to US residents. One country down, 202 [wikipedia.org] to go.

  • What. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Friday August 28, 2009 @01:25AM (#29227595)

    But who knew we'd already granted computers rights?!!

    Yeah. Because nothing that anyone says using a machine -- say to aid in disseminating their thoughts to many more people than they could talk to in person -- is actual protected speech!

    Now report to the reeducation center, citizen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2009 @02:46AM (#29227953)

    Caller ID is a standard right which every household in America has?

    I think not. YOU might have it, as you have money and possibly station in society where you feel you need it. But some of us do still have a "cheap" landline without any unnecessary frills.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2009 @05:15AM (#29228601)

    Regulation is a service, so clearly you are wrong.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Friday August 28, 2009 @06:22AM (#29228867)

    And it will mess with your credit rating. Having half-a-dozen cards stolen over the course of a few years is a very good indication to banks that you're a good credit risk to a bank, even if it's merely a risk of your wasting their time and money this way.

  • by jonadab (583620) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:07AM (#29229089) Homepage Journal
    > free speech is when I ask you a question and you
    > are allowed to answer and not fear for your life.

    Oh, it's a bit more than that. Free speech is when you can stand on on the sidewalk downtown and tell your political ideas to anyone who will listen, hand out pamphlets to anyone who will take them, hold rallies where five hundred like-minded people all get together in a public place...

    I am even willing to accept unsolicited political phonecalls, as long as the number you're calling is a publicly listed number and not listed in the DNC registry, and provided it's a human doing the calling.

    But machine autocalling with a pre-recorded message is something else. The objection here is NOT to what you are saying. The objection here is to the fact that you are wasting my time *only*, and not spending any of your own time to do so. It doesn't matter if your message is commercial or political, because we're fundamentally not talking about what you're allowed to *say*.

    And the do-not-call registry should apply to all unsolicited calls. Ordinarily a politician can knock on your door and, if you answer, ask if he can have a moment of your time to tell you about $issue. A salesman can do the same thing. But if you put a sign on your door asking them not to do so, they're supposed to respect that. The DNC registry serves the same purpose as that sign on the door.

    This is not a free speech issue. They can say whatever they want, in public. Nobody's going to arrest or penalize them for what they say. (Well, we might choose to vote for the other guy, but that goes with the territory when you run for public office.) It's not about speech. It's about privacy, and the right of the individual home-owner to choose who and what he allows into his home.
  • by sorak (246725) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:45AM (#29229391)

    Calls from political campaigns are considered protected speech

    But who knew we'd already granted computers rights?!!

    As much as I hate robocalls, I think a prerecorded message is analogous to either a bullhorn or a prerecorded television ad. So, if "vote for me" is protected when a human says it, then it should be when he records it and transmits it electronically.

    Part of me is smirking at the idea of some police officer telling Steven Hawking "You have the right to free speech, but that voice thingy you use doesn't"

  • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Friday August 28, 2009 @08:02AM (#29229565)

    In general I'd agree with your post, but perhaps take it a step further. It's not just that nobody reads the "fine print", the real problem is that nobody can really understand the fine print unless they go to law school and study contracts. Not many people who read the contract all the way through will understand that clauses 2 and 6 puts them over a barrel, but clause 10 is so ridiculous that no court in the land will enforce it, and you can agree to it to your heart's content but you're not actually bound by it.

    So the deeper problem is this: if you aren't equipped to read and understand a contract, does that mean you have to consult a lawyer every time you're asked to agree to one? This would be horribly inefficient, as we'd all be trotting off to see our lawyers every time we accepted a parking lot stub, bought a piece of software, clicked through a EULA online, etc. It just doesn't work.

  • by cheshiremoe (1448979) on Friday August 28, 2009 @08:10AM (#29229649)
    I think it could be a valid reason. Robocalls says something about the character of the candidate.
  • by bartwol (117819) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:26AM (#29232283)

    I think a prerecorded message is analogous to either a bullhorn or a prerecorded television ad.

    Neither bullhorn nor TV ad are allowed to enter into my home without my consent. It is practical for me to leave off (or to not have) a TV. But a phone provides essential services (including emergency services) that cannot function if it is turned off. The bullhorn, actually, can be annoying by coming through my window, but in fact, the state has retained latitude to regulate that problem through noise control regulations and requirements of permit for public demonstration.

    The allowance of political calls (under the guise of free speech) simply reflects legislative selfishness...a willingness to enforce just behavior upon all but themselves. It reflects the self-serving, less-than-high ethics that characterizes all but the fewest of politicians. They rationalize it away under a Greater Good theory, in this case some abstract virtue of greater public participation in politics. But that's just a cover fib, their real motive being to avail themselves of political advantage through any and all legal means. If you want to see how much they care about public participation, check their records on trying to help people of opposing parties to participate in politics.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:36AM (#29232429) Homepage Journal

    Robocalls says something about the character of the candidate.

    That's only true if the robocall actually came from the candidate (or his campaign organization).

    As others have pointed out, many political robocalls come from a candidate's opponent, in an attempt to get voters sufficiently annoyed at the candidate to vote against him/her. Unless you can verify that a robocall is actually from the candidate, it tells you nothing at all about the candidate.

    Fraud is a routine part of many (perhaps most) political campaigns. It's routine to try to get voters to accept lies about your opponent. This is just one of many ways to do so. Google for "push poll" for another popular method.

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