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Robocalling Loopholes Closed via FCC Ruling

June 24, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Telemarketing Software Contributor


Most companies that offer contact center services will, at some point, take on a political candidate as a client. Outbound telemarketing has become one of the backbones of political campaigns today, in an era when door-to-door campaigning is either not possible (or downright unsafe), not to mention time-consuming. Any organization engaging in outbound telemarketing for political purposes, however, may wish to refresh their knowledge of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which governs outbound telemarketing practices, including popular channels such as automated outbound calling (a/k/a “robocalling”). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) recently issued a declaratory ruling that closed some loopholes, and it may mean that political robocalling is about to get a lot harder.


First, some background: when the TCPA was updated early last decade to include newer channels such as robocalling, e-mail and other digital channels, American politicians ensured that they themselves would be exempt from the rules prohibiting unsolicited outbound calling (for which commercial entities must first get prior written consent.) In response to customer complaints about political calls – particularly robocalling – the FCC has started strongly encouraging phone carriers and telecom companies to embrace technologies that allow consumers to block robocalls. Pollsters and political campaign professionals cried foul, but the FCC, together with the FTC (News - Alert), has remained steadfast in its belief that Americans have a right to control the information they receive.

“When a phone number gets reassigned, marketers must stop calling the number after one call,” wrote IT World’s Katherine Noyes. “Further, people listed among the contacts of a particular consumer cannot be assumed to give consent to receive robocalls from third-party applications downloaded by that consumer, the FCC said.”

The FCC also clarified in its declaratory ruling that people who have opted in to receiving robocalls may opt out at any time, and anyone engaging in the practice needs a swift method for managing these preferences. Most marketers today understand that they need to operate on the “opt in” and not “opt out” model, and the FCC’s actions have closed many of the loopholes that were left. Though the agency hasn’t gone as far as to require Americans to “opt in” to political calls, its willingness to encourage people to use technology that will essentially block candidates’ calls is a bold step.

“The FCC wants to make it clear: Telephone companies can — and in fact, should — offer consumers robocall-blocking tools,” wrote FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (News - Alert).

The next step for the FCC in enforcing the TCPA, many industry watchers say, should be protecting businesses from unwanted robocalling. It’s estimated that rampant robocalling will generate 100 million toll-free calls to businesses this year alone, costing them an estimated $1 billion in phone charges. 

 



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