Swarms of Consumers complaining about robocalls can now receive relief from the FTC

September 04, 2009

Consumers across the U.S. have been sounding off to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about incessant automated telemarketing calls for months. Many of these unwanted and unrequested calls promised consumers services like negotiating lower interest rates on their credit cards to offers of warranties on vehicles that aren’t in need of one. Not only are the calls a nuisance and violate U.S. Do-Not-Call regulations, but some companies behind the calls are simply ripping off consumers.

Beginning today, the annoying robocalls will be a thing of the past thanks to an FTC ruling. The Federal Trade Commission announced that it is banning robocalls to consumers, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls.

“Over the past several months, the FTC has taken action against companies that employ robocalls. This new regulation takes things one step further and will help protect consumers from pre-recorded sales pitches, solicitations, and malicious marketing,” said David Polino, BBB President.

After September 1, sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

The rule amendments do 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. In addition, calls not covered by the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) – including those from politicians, banks, telephone carriers, certain healthcare messages and most charitable organizations – are not covered by the new prohibition.

BBB offers the following advice for consumers who receive prerecorded telemarketing calls:

  • Consumers who receive prerecorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to get them should file a complaint with the FTC, either on the donotcall.gov Web site or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
  • Never give personal information, including Social Security, bank, credit card or license numbers, over the phone to an unknown telemarketer. Always research the company first by reviewing its BBB Reliability Report at www.bbb.org.

  • When considering any company offering any type of product or service over the phone, insist on getting a contract in which all terms and conditions are clearly explained before signing up or providing credit card or other payment information.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Peggy Penders at 800.303.4490.