FCC cracks down on telemarketing robocalls

The new rules require telemarketers to get written consent from a consumer before autodialing them

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules requiring telemarketers that use autodialed or prerecorded telephone calls to sell products to get written approval from customers before sending them the robocalls.

An order adopted by the FCC on Wednesday also does away with an earlier exception to robocalling rules that allowed telemarketers to call customers with whom they had a pre-existing relationship. Under previous rules, U.S. residents could sign up for a national do-not-call list.

The new regulations will allow telemarketers to get online permission from consumers. The rules don't apply to informational calls, such as automated calls related to school closings or flight changes.

Unwanted robocalls and text messages were among the top consumer complaints to the FCC in 2011, the agency said.

The rules now require telemarketers to provide an opt-out mechanism during each robocall so that consumers can immediately tell them to stop calling.

The new rules are necessary because telemarketers are abusing the system, said Julius Genachowski, the FCC's chairman. Despite these clear ground rules, too many telemarketers, aided by autodialers and prerecorded messages, have continued to call consumers who don't want to hear from them," he said. "Consumers by the thousands have complained to us, letting us know that they remain unhappy with having their privacy invaded and their time wasted by these unwanted calls."

CTIA, a trade group representing mobile carriers, praised the decision. About 80 percent of mobile complaints are related to unsolicited third-party phone calls and text messages, the group said. Customers are the "winners" in the FCC's decision, the trade group said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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