New Rule Outlaws Most Automated Sales Calls

August 28, 2009

FTC Mandate Takes Effect Sept. 1

RICHMOND, Va. – So called “robocallers” could face stiff penalties beginning Sept. 1.

A new rule, imposed by the Federal Trade Commission, prohibits pre-recorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages. Those telemarketers who violate the rule could face penalties up to $16,000 per instance.

“Consumers are fed up with these pre-recorded pitches and senseless solicitations. Few things annoy them more than a call at the dinner hour from one of these automated services,” said Tom Gallagher, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Central Virginia.

The rule does not prohibit calls that deliver purely “informational” recorded messages – those that notify recipients, for example, that their flight has been cancelled, an appliance they ordered will be delivered at a certain time, or that their child’s school opening is delayed. Such calls are not covered by the rule, as long as they do not attempt to interest consumers in the sale of any goods or services.

For the same reason, the rule also does not apply to calls concerning collection of debts, where the calls do not seek to promote the sale of any goods or services.

In addition, calls not covered by the rule include those from politicians, banks, telephone carriers, and most charitable organizations. The new prohibition on pre-recorded messages does not apply to certain healthcare messages.

After Sept. 1, consumers who receive pre-recorded telemarketing calls, but have not agreed to get them, should file a complaint with the FTC, either at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Also, consumers who have not already done so are advised to place their home phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry gives consumers a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call the consumer’s number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. To register a number, visit or call 1-888-382-1222.

The BBB in Central Virginia serves Richmond and Tri-Cities, as well as 42 surrounding counties, from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of the BBB include business reliability reports, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education and charity review.