Friday, August 7, 2015

Changes to FCC Regulations May Help Reduce Robocalls

The National Do Not Call Registry, run jointly by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, was designed to be a way for consumers to avoid sales calls. Unfortunately, due to new technologies, so-called telemarketers have found ways to go around As Jim Puzzanghera discusses in his L.A. Times article, most people dislike receiving annoying and commonly fraudulent phone calls on a daily basis, which is why the FCC has proposed new regulations that could help consumers only receive the calls that they want.

The agencies receive about 150,000 complaints per month about robocalls, but there's not much they can do about it. Once your number is on the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers are, in theory, not allowed to call you. However, as witnessed by many on the list, these calls still come through. By using internet-based phone numbers or routing calls through other countries, telemarketers are able to circumvent the law and contact those on the Do Not Call list. Until recently, consumers had to tell callers, in writing, that they no longer wish to receive sales calls. Under the new regulations, the calls can be stopped by asking the telemarketer "in any reasonable way at any time" to stop.

In addition to making it easier for consumers to stop sales calls on their end, the FCC's changed regulations will allow and encourage telephone providers to offer robocall-blocking tools to their customers. While robocalls can be annoying to those receiving them, they can also be costly. Some calls and texts rack up charges on a monthly phone bill. Many times, phone providers keep a significant portion of the fees charged by such third-party message services, a practice that has led companies like Verizon and Sprint to court in recent months. If the calls and texts were blocked in the first place, such charges would not be an issue.

Under the new rules, even if a company had previously received written permission from the owner of a phone number to make sales calls, the robocaller has to stop immediately once they find out that the phone number has changed ownership. In this way, the new owner will not have to be bothered by calls that were authorized by a previous owner. The new rules, however, apply to certain companies and not to others. For example, computerized calls from banks or hospitals are allowed if they are designed to help the consumer. Calls about possible fraudulent activity on a credit card or about medication refills are not considered"robocalls" in the classical sense by the FCC.

While law enforcement is working toward catching illegal telemarketers and putting a stop to some of the sales calls. the FCC believe that the most sensible way to stop the calls is directly at the source. If phone providers were to offer to their customers the variety of new services available to block such calls, consumers could at least avoid calls from the most notorious telemarketers. Some lawmakers worry that the new regulations could be harmful in that they prevent surveys and demographics studies from being performed on the general public. On the other hand, many consumers find survey-takers to be just as annoying as telemarketers. Altogether, these regulations could be a way to give consumers what they want. Stopping illegal calls and making consumers happy are the top responsibilities of the National Do Not Call Registry, and these new laws may help them fulfill their purpose.

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