Telemarketing Software Featured Article

FCC Invites Telecoms to Attend Robocall-Blocking Workshop

August 20, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic - Telemarketing Software Contributor

When it comes to telemarketing annoyances, Americans aren’t shy about registering complaints. Live telemarketing calls almost seem like an annoyance from another era. Today it’s more about robocalls, or automated outbound calls that play a recorded voice when a person picks up the phone. Complaints about robocalls are the number one reason why Americans reach out to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)), which regulates telemarketing and robocalling. While there are stiff rules in place to prevent robocalls to cell phones or to customers with whom a company has no established relationship, the rules are widely flouted. (Nearly everyone in the U.S. has had a relationship with “Rachael from Card Services,” no doubt.)

In response to consumer complaints, the agency is asking telephone companies to begin offering services to their customers that will allow them to block calls placed by an automatic dialer. (In June, the agency affirmed that it was legal for telecom companies to block robocalls at customers’ request.) To help telecoms understand what they can do about the problem, the FCC is inviting companies with an interest in preventing robocalling to participate in a workshop next month to discuss the steps they can take to protect consumers. At the workshop, the companies and the FCC also will evaluate current robocall blocking technologies, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The event will be held on September 16, 2015, at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington.

The FCC’s June proclamation that it’s legal for telecom companies to block robocalls was engineered to calm the fears of companies that are hesitant to shut off the channel of permissible robocalls, such as those initiated by doctors and pharmacies for appointments or refills, or political robocalls for campaigning. According to Mitchell Katz, a spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission, nearly all robocalls that are initiated for commercial reasons are illegal.

 “If a company is making an automated sales call, it’s safe to assume the product they are selling is illegal — a lot of them are coming from overseas,” said Katz.

Automated calls for non-profit purposes – weather alerts from schools, or a reminder to vote in a homeowner’s association election, for example – remain legal. In addition, commercial calls are allowed for customers that have an existing relationship with a company, such as when a credit card company informs a cardholder that a payment is overdue. That doesn’t stop Americans from complaining about these calls, and some consumers would like to be able to halt them altogether, something the FCC hopes it can help telecom companies do so.

There is evidence that the agency is getting serious about illegal robocalling. In early August, the agency fined Travel Club Marketing a total of $2.96 million for making 185 unsolicited calls to cell phones and landlines belonging to 142 people, most of whom were on the federal Do Not Call list. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson