FCC to unveil revised robocall regulations

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The Federal Communications Commission will soon propose revisions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that it says will empower consumers to avoid unwanted phone solicitations, commonly known as “robocalls.” The agency's goal is to bring its rules in line with those of Federal Trade Commission.

The specific revisions have not been released yet. However, the FCC has said that they will require marketers to obtain written consent from consumers before making prerecorded telemarketing calls, even if the two sides have a previous or ongoing business relationship.

“The first thing is that robocalls have to have a written permission, even if there is an existing business relationship,” said Rosemary Kimball, media relations spokeswoman at the FCC. She added that the official revisions will be released “any day now” and that there is no timeline for implementation.

The revisions would also require that prerecorded marketing calls include an opt-out mechanism. Yet they would not apply to certain categories of prerecorded calls, including those made by or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofits, political calls and informational messages.

The commission is also asking the public to comment on whether the proposed revisions would benefit consumers and the industry.

FTC regulations prohibiting prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers went into effect last September, as part of the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule initiative. The penalty for prerecorded phone calls without written permission from the recipient went up to $16,000 per call at that time.  

Jerry Cerasale, SVP of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said that his organization plans to formally comment on the proposed guidelines, and hopes that they don't exceed the FTC rules.

“We want to make sure that they are in line with the FTC rules and don't go further than that, and that will be part of our comment,” he said. “We are working with our teleservices committee to see if there are other things we want to say concerning some problems they had with the implementation of the FTC rules.”

Cerasale added that his group plans to do more member education on what the FTC regulations mean and how member organizations can abide by them.

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