Government will announce crackdown on robocalls tomorrow — what took them so long?

These are hard times for “robocallers” — the companies with those annoying automated systems that call you at the exact time you sit down to dinner, with a prerecorded message. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed new rules limiting unwanted telephone solicitations. And the Federal Communications Commission tomorrow plans to announce a crackdown on companies making robocalls. (Update: Here’s the announcement. Details at the end of this post.)

What took them so long?

I mean, seriously. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act passed in 1991. Where has the government been doing in the last two decades?

A weakly-enforced law is, of course, better than no law at all. And the FCC’s suggested improvements would strengthen it considerably. Among other things, they would,

1. Require sellers and telemarketers to obtain telephone subscribers’ express written consent (including electronic methods of consent) to receive prerecorded telemarketing calls, even when there exists an established business relationship between the caller and the consumer.

2. Require that prerecorded telemarketing calls include an automated, interactive mechanism by which a consumer may “opt out” of receiving future prerecorded messages from a seller or telemarketer.

The downside? They’d exempt certain federally regulated healthcare-related calls from the general prohibition on prerecorded telemarketing calls to residential telephone lines. In other words, your doctor or dentist can still robocall you with appointment reminders. Fair enough.

So who are the robocall perpetrators the FTC plans to announce its enforcement action against tomorrow? It isn’t too hard to guess, and quick online search will reveal hundreds of companies that have defied the government’s rules.

Related story:   Are companies trying to avoid leaving a paper trail of promises?

I’ve received a fair number of robocalls, too. Here’s one annoying pitch (MP3). At least this one (MP3) allowed me to “opt out” of future solicitations.

Personally, I can’t wait for the FTC to get its act together and go after the robocallers. It’s long overdue.

Update (June 10, 2010): As expected, the FTC announced the enforcement action against SBN Peripherals, Inc., based near Los Angeles. The government alleges it made more than 370 million calls to consumers nationwide in the past year alone, prompting tens of thousands of complaints to the agency.

One telephone service provider told the FTC that during a single day in April 2009 the defendants sent 2.4 million calls to consumers – more than 27 calls per second. The FTC charges the robocalls violated the agency’s Do Not Call Registry Rule.

I’ll say.

(Photo: JonJon 2k 8/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.