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FTC Rules Outlawing Robocalls Go Into Effect Next Week 277

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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  • Unenforceable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:48PM (#29226407)

    Scumbags who use robocalls don't care about laws or reputations. Most of the products they peddle are outright scams or at the very least a bad deal for customers.

    The perpetrators will set up shop offshore and evade detection. This law, just like CAN-SPAM, will make no difference at all.

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

    by codeguy007 ( 179016 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:51PM (#29226419)

    They just call from another country to get around the no call lists anyway so you're right.

  • by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:53PM (#29226437) Journal

    So.. what's the going rate for a callcenter in... well, what's the cheapest place nowadays?

    Paying somebody to call a bunch of numbers, regurgitate a preconceived message, then transfer to the appropriate office if the called person takes the bait... can't be all -that- expensive* and circumvents the 'pre-recorded' bit of a 'robocall', right?

    If -only- that bit is what is ruled against, then an automated dialer can still at least only transfer those who answer the phone to the poor sod with the aforementioned job, too.

    Surely a loophole can't be that big?

    * more expensive than a completely automated dealie, of course, but the above is, I presume, the way they did this -before- such technology was available..

  • capcha time? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:01PM (#29226499)

    I'm thinking it might be time.

    something that ensures a human is at the other end, and a thinking one, at that. yeah.

    phone spam is getting to the point where we need blacklists and whitelists. wildcards on names, numbers in caller-id. or even trapping on lack of caller-id.

    arms race they want? we can meet that challenge.

    but its a damned shame we've let ourselves get to this point ;(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:14PM (#29226607)

    I use a popular VOIP phone service and I've actually written software to run on my Linksys router that will do exactly what you want. It can filter by caller ID string (such as "sbc messaging") using regular expressions for added flexibility or it can filter by phone number. Blacklisted callers go right to voice mail without the phone ever ringing. Anonymous callers who don't reveal their CID information are also blocked. You'd be amazed how many useless calls the regexp "toll *free.*" can eliminate. The ability to block incoming calls like this should be implemented with every phone service (preferably without having to hack or reverse engineer their session-layer protocols).

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:35PM (#29226703)

    Because we only adopt "market-based" solutions when they benefit the existing oligarchs. Putting a fair price on a shared resource in order to establish an efficient market is SOCIALIST AND THEREFORE EVIL.

  • Is this trespassing? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:43PM (#29226747)

    Let me say this first: I'm an aussie and (thankfully) we don't have the issues that you guys seem to have in the U.S. with all these telemarketers.

    Could not the whole telemarketing thing be put under a trespassing code, rather than a freedom of speech one? As far as I'm aware (which is not at all), you guys can put a sign on your front gate that says 'No Trespassing' which will stop any door-to-door salesmen. This of course doesn't stop someone standing at your front gate shouting slogans and the what-not.

    However, if it could be done that your phone was an extension of your territorial rights of terrestial land, could not _any_ breach be regarded as trespassing?


  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:44PM (#29226753)

    The government can make all the regs they want, the telcoes render then null and void. We already have plenty of rules against junk faxes, violating the do not call registery, outright scam calls, etc. Now what do you do when you get one? The ones you would want to make pay always either blank out the caller-id or put a totally bogus (I get a lot of 1-555-* myself) number into the field. So that means the telco would have to give you the identity of the caller. Obviously THEY know who it is, they have the billing records. But you would need a court order to pry that information from them. I have even tried calling them and saying the last call into my line was illegal, and if they couldn't give me the info could they report it to the FTC, law enforcement, anybody? on my behalf. Nope, customer records are private without a court order and the phone company isn't interested in policing customers who pay them a hell of a lot more then you do.

    So good luck getting the spammers/scammers to actually pay any fines until they get notorious enough for the FTC to run a sting against one.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @11:58PM (#29226821)

    For fuck's sake, a contract isn't an atomic sacred unit of holy marketology. It's just a piece of paper.

    The problem is Common Law, which holds that a contract is almost as sacred a the Ten Commandments except in limited circumstances. Courts have long rules that many sorts of contract are invalid if one party is deceived. Long form contracts with surprisingly asymmetric benefits to the drafted of the contract are a relatively modern chapter in the long history of contracts design to deceive. In practice, nobody reads the fine print. Saying "well, people should" is counterproductive because you know in practice that very few people will. By that logic, you can reduce all law to "well, people really shouldn't hurt each other."

    What matters is how the contract is commonly understood, not what it actually says. It's high time for contracts of adhesion [] to be held to much stricter standards. Specifically,

    1. No requirement of a standard form contract not commonly understood to be part of a contract of that type is enforceable.
    2. What "commonly understood" means is to be constituted by an impartial poll of the issue in question

    That means that if a cell phone company, for instance, claims that their contract allows them to give your number to telemarketers, that clause is unenforceable unless the writer of the contract can show, via an impartial third party poll, that common people understand the contract to permit that right.

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

    by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:00AM (#29226831)

    What's really funny is that it goes both ways too.

    We have a Do Not Call register in Australia as well. You can sign up for it here: []

    When it was first introduced, telemarketing calls pretty much stopped dead. For a while. But after a while they started coming back. And funnily enough all the people on the other end had American accents now (or were pre-recorded Americans). And indeed I asked one of them once where he was located, and he said Texas.

    Of course, the Australian Do Not Call register only applies to calls placed in Australia. So they got around it by setting up operations in the US and calling back to Australia. I imagine they use some form of VoIP for the international leg otherwise the phone bills would be obscene.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:11AM (#29226891) Journal

    I haven't gotten a single call on my mail line since the day I put it on the Do Not Call List.

    Then you are amazingly lucky or keep your phone turned off most of the time. There was at least one outfit [] that was literally war dialing every single possible valid NANP number. They called police dispatchers, the White House, military bases, Congressional offices, etc, etc. I got at least three or four calls from them per month until the FTC shut them down.

    They were a bunch of cocksuckers too. You'd challenge them on ANYTHING and they'd just hang up you. I gave up on trying to get removed from their "list" and tried to pretend to want to do business with them. They wanted a credit card and when I told them I didn't have one and wanted to mail them a check they gave me an "address" of "4321 Main St. Some Random City and Zipcode" and hung up on me.

    Eventually I gave up on trying to figure out who they are and just started being incredibly nasty to them. I'd bust out the 'C' word if I wound up with a female caller and various racial epithets for the male callers. Most of them would hang up but a few of them got into shouting matches with me over how horrible it was to use such words. I'm not actually a racist or sexist but I figured it was the best way to piss someone off over the phone with a single word before they could hang up. Since they consumed my cell phone minutes and interrupted multiple dinners I figured it was only fair.

  • by Jay Clay ( 971209 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:29AM (#29226973)
    "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."

    Assuming you have the number, you can. There are ramifications if it's threatening or if they ask you to stop and you still do it - just like these other scenarios should - but there aren't any laws against it (AFAIK - someone may correct me on that).

    Now the reverse - do you think you should be *prevented* from talking about these things to judges and members of the congress? Just on the phone? What? The issue with free speech, and any freedoms for that matter, is that it has to be protected for the jerks that abuse it, because taking away freedoms starts there (paraphrasing some quote).
  • by bronney ( 638318 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:37AM (#29227005) Homepage

    The best way is to make it matters legally. Give them your credit card number, the one you don't use often or just sign one up just for this. Let them charge it, then take it up to the card center and police and say you have a lead on someone using your credit card illegally. If it's no traceable, you can't prove enough to charge my card either. If it is, you get the fuckers.

  • Re:Won't matter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2009 @12:44AM (#29227043)

    You're correct. There are a few companies who will ( do the telemarketing on the cheap. Not only will they call from the USA to Australia, but they'll also provide even cheaper telemarketing from the offices in Manila. All managed from the USA. However, the ACMA still control who is called by regulating the lists, and who has access to them. If the original contact list originated from within Australia, it falls under the ACMA. If that list contains numbers on their DNC list then the company can still be fined by the ACMA regardless of where the call originated from. Telstra very recently got into hot water for blindly ignoring the DNC list and were fined, even though the calls being made originated off-shore.

  • by harmonise ( 1484057 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @01:29AM (#29227323)

    In a election last year for a state representative, I voted against someone because they robocalled me. Thankfully, they lost the election. I wrote to them after the fact and told them why I voted for their opponent.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @07:13AM (#29228823) Journal

    WE NEED AUSTRALIAN BALLOTING. Then we could pass votes like this, without feeling like we "wasted" our vote on no-name politicians:

    (1) Harry Browne - Libertarian
    (2) Chuck Baldwin - Constitution
    (3) Ted Weill - Reform
    (4) McCain - R
    (5) ---

    BUT since I don't want to waste my vote, rather than vote for the first three which I already know will lose, I vote my fourth choice which is not the best man - just the one with the best chance of winning.

    It's worth noting that during the first couple presidential elections, the Congress selected the president, and they used a process very similar to Australian balloting (casting multiple votes until somebody came-out on top). It would be very easy for the States to adopt this kind of ballot.

  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @08:26AM (#29229241) Homepage Journal
    This isn't about free speech or free press, because it isn't about WHAT you are allow to say or write. The issue is about how you (the salesman, the politician, whoever) are allowed to use my phone line, that *I* pay the bill for.

    > 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...

    That's a straw man. You can print all the junk you want on your own inkjet printer, or on your own laser printer, or one that you rent... But *I* get to say what you can print on *my* printer, capische?
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Friday August 28, 2009 @09:06AM (#29229603) Homepage Journal

    WE NEED AUSTRALIAN BALLOTING. Then we could pass votes like this, without feeling like we "wasted" our vote on no-name politicians:

    With instant runoff voting, you can only safely vote for third party candidates if those candidates have no chance of winning. If one of them gets enough support to garner, say, 30% of the vote, he'll have drawn most of his support from the major candidate to whom he is ideologically closest, giving the election to the major candidate from whom he is ideologically furthest.

    So IRV still requires voters to vote "strategically", unless the third party candidates are all too weak to have a chance at wining.

    Better options are approval voting, Condorcet voting, or range voting. None of these are strategy-free, but none of them create situations where it makes sense to vote for a less-preferred candidate over your most-preferred candidate, unlike IRV or (much, much worse, plurality rules, the system we use).

  • by ubercam ( 1025540 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @10:47AM (#29230889)

    The only problem with "just hanging up on them" is when the robocaller ties up your line for the duration of its message, whether you've hung up or not.

    I got one from the NDP during the last Canadian election. I picked up the phone and it said "Hi, this is Jack Layton and I need your support..." blah blah blah, so I hung up on it right away. I picked up the phone about a minute later to make a call and it was still going on and on. I tried dialling random numbers on the phone to make it shut up and it wouldn't work. I hung up and tried about a minute later and I got a dial tone.

    I recorded all the details about the call that I could and wrote the phone company and told them that this call from the NDP tied up my line and I'd like to file a complaint about it because I might have needed to dial 911 or something during that time and would have been unable to do so, never mind being unable to use the phone at all, which we pay for, not the NDP. Someone from the phone company got back to me fairly quickly asking me for a bit more information and then a technician called me and said that he had just made some changes to our line to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. We haven't had a robocaller for a while now as far as I know. I don't know what he did exactly, but I'd like to know. Maybe someone familiar with the phone system could shed some light on it.

    I also added the IC SIT [] (disconnected/non-existant number tone) to the beginning of our answering machine message in the hopes that it would reduce the number of robocallers and telemarketers that phone during the day. I know quite a few of them are unfortunately ignoring it because too many people caught on to the trick.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:36AM (#29231605)

    Surely fraudulent political calls can't be exempted from the new law?

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Friday August 28, 2009 @11:55AM (#29231891) Journal

    Robocalls = robopoliticians

    The problem is, I'm not sure that a House Member can adequately represent their constituents. If you look at the Constitution (original) you can see that the number of people represented by a House Member was 30,000, which seems like a reasonable that one person can represent adequately.

    The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand

    The small city I live in, would have 3 Representatives just for itself, which would probably represent the varied interests of my city quite well.

    Now I realize that this would make the current house of representatives the size of my city, which is obviously problematic in and of itself.

    However, there would be a huge side benefit to having that many representatives, in that it would be very difficult for special interest groups to buy favors.

    It would solve many of the problems we currently face (career politicians, greed, non-representation of the people). Other than for the size of the body it would be beneficial to our society. It might even allow for more third party candidates and get us out of the (D) good/bad | (R) bad/good false dichotomy.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling