FTC Listens To Your Complaints, (Mostly) Bans Telemarketer Robocalls

After reviewing the more than 14,000 comments left by living human beings, the FTC yesterday amended its Telemarketing Sales Rule to ban most types of robotic telemarketing calls. By this December, any recorded calls will have to lead off with an automated opt-out option; by September 2009, telemarketers will need prior written permission to contact someone—simply being a recent customer won’t cut it.

Of course, there are still exceptions.

Health care-related calls subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 are still allowed, as are charitable fundraising robocalls made to members of the nonprofit charitable organization for which the call is placed, or to people who previously donated to it. The fundraising calls must still include an automated opt-out, however.

The strict limits won’t stop robocalls from political campaigns, either.”Political calls are not placed for the purpose of inducing purchases of goods or services, and therefore are not ‘telemarketing’ within the meaning of the TSR,” the FTC notes in a footnote of the amendment.

If you feel plagued by telemarketers, try the tips in our past posts for getting them to stop calling your, or for dealing with them effectively when they keep doing it.

“FTC all but bans robocalls” [CNET] (Thanks to Jason!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Best article photo ever.

  2. LogicalOne says:

    Yeah, this is gonna stop them, alright…

  3. se7a7n7 says:

    Then how will I know the the warranty on my car is about to expire (despite the fact that I don’t own a car)?

  4. timmus says:

    I’m not having a problem with robotic calls as much as I am with autodialer hangups. And if Congress really wants to do something, they can start with better enforcement of Do Not Call laws. Congress really needs to get their sh(% together about this, or at least create an OPT-IN system.

  5. womynist says:

    Ugh…the non-profit I work for has been getting these for over a month now. We have no idea who these companies are, how to remove our # from their lists, or how they got our info in the first place. They’re coming everyday-sometimes multiple times per day. One of them rambles on about a free vacation to the Bahamas and the other one is about the warranty on your car expiring. It’s quite annoying to answer the phone at a charity and get that annoying loud auto-voice on the other end.

  6. bohemian says:

    My cell phone was plagued by auto-dialer hangups, before that my landline. The only solution was to get a new number.

    Why not just ban auto dialers, they serve zero benefit to the consumer.

  7. thelushie says:

    My opt-out is to hang up. I rarely get these, though, and the ones I do get are the ones I want. Catalog merchandise has arrived, perscriptions are ready to pick up, etc.

  8. gladiatory2k says:

    I got one of those car Warranty calls. I waited on the phone, told the girl I wanted full coverage. Excitedly, she asks me what my make and model was, I respond with, “don’t you have that information in your computer?” She hung up seconds later.

    Strange thing about me, I love getting telemarketer calls. Occassionally, it is an opportunity to make someone ELSE feel like their life sucks. The best is holding a guy on the line for 20 minutes while I keep trying to throw him off his script. Yes, I am evil, and yes, I have a lot of free time on my hands. Of course, since I took on this mission of making telemarketers screw up their call quotas, I really haven’t been called all that much.

  9. MercuryPDX says:

    @thelushie: My opt out is to press 1 to be connected, put the phone on mute, and turn on the speakerphone. The calls have since stopped coming to my office phone.

  10. thelushie says:

    @MercuryPDX: There ya go. Whatever works. If they came to me at work, I would be royally pissed.

  11. mac-phisto says:

    @bohemian: i agree. & i don’t see how it would restrict business at all – telemarketers could still do it “old school” & buy calling lists.

    @thelushie: well, 12 (sequential number) lines at work…that get’s pretty repetitive. some days, the calls come 3 or 4 times/day on each line!

    @MercuryPDX: i have done that (when it’s possible). many times the line clicks off when you press 1 (or whatever number they prompt), despite their legal obligation to pick up right away.
    slightly o/t, but a new practice in my neck of the woods is local politicians misusing the reverse-911 feature for non-emergency purposes. is there anything those creeps won’t do?

  12. dragonfire81 says:

    @Belabras: Agreed.

    Unfortunately Robocalls SUCK!! If you want any chance at getting my business (which is remote as it with telemarketing), at least have the decency to have a real person call me.

  13. @bohemian: The argument is that saving money for the merchant allows them to lower prices for the consumer (no, I don’t need the gorilla pointed out, I see it).

    @MercuryPDX & thelushie: I’ve done both, just hung up, answerd and asked if they could hold just to see how long they’ll stay. My all-time favorite though is to confront the poor telemarketer with appreciation for calling me back about the mysterious $583.27 charge they placed on my credit card, and if they’re prepared to refund the money or if I should sue. Harsh? Yes. Free entertainment? Yes.

  14. @mac-phisto: Lots of things, they won’t tell the whole truth, turn away campaign funding, have my trust, etc.

  15. WaywardSoul says:

    I had a problem with a state politician robocalling me and I had no luck getting off his list. Then I went to his web site and started leaving pretty nasty messages in the blogs and forums about it and demanding he take me off. He/they did, almost as quickly as they deleted my messages, but not before a few others jumped on the bandwagon.

  16. magic8ball says:

    I still have questions. How will this be enforced? And what can I do about companies who violate the rules, but block caller ID so I can’t report them?

  17. MercuryPDX says:

    @valarmorghulis: The fun factor ROI has a steep decline after call #3.

  18. MercuryPDX says:

    How will this be enforced?
    Poorly, if at all.

    And what can I do about companies who violate the rules, but block caller ID so I can’t report them?
    Three words: Anonymous Call Rejection.

  19. BillsBurg says:

    Man I never get to have any fun. Our home phone doesn’t get any telemarketer calls, only calls I get are from companies I do business with. Also don’t get asked for a receipt at WalMart, Home Depot, Target, Loews, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc….boy I never get to have ANY fun like the rest of you…maybe it’s where I live…Williamsburg, VA and Hampton Roads maybe are just more trusting???

  20. The_IT_Crone says:

    Does this include debt collectors? Those are the ones that are driving me up the wall. (Previous tenants, not me). I want to tell them they’ve got the wrong person, but it’s automated and can’t do anything.

  21. mac-phisto says:

    @The_IT_Crone: write them a letter. <— clicky, clicky! (i <3 this site).

  22. shimane says:

    Political Robo calls are an epidemic and are invading the privacy of All American Voters.

    Our members are taking a stand and saying enough is enough at the National Political Do Not Contact Registry at StopPoliticalCalls.org.

    Here is a quote from a member this morning:

    “I find it very frustrating… I tend to get calls at the WORST time. I have a one year old daughter, and it NEVER fails that the phone will ring when I put her down for a nap or for bed. Also my vote is PRIVATE… so who do you think you are calling with a survey to find out who I am voting for!!! Stop calling me.”


    Shaun Dakin
    CEO and Founder

  23. The do not call list just don’t work. For starters the politicians cover their arses and allow loopholes for their own kind. And then it is the charities, like the “American Red Bunny Slippers and Aids task force for golf and pleasure” is real charity

    So I say have fun with the telewhores. Make it so they don’t want to do business with you. Yes, their employees do deserve abuse (within reason and good taste). The more you cost the company, the more likely they will go out of business or cease calling you. And in the mean time you will develop great stories to tell your grandchildren about the time when there were lowlife scums running around on the earth named Telewhores.

  24. nerdychaz says:

    I receive robot calls day in and day out on the EMERGENCY LINE (I work security). The reason is that when I pick up the phone the international recording signal, a beep every ten seconds or so, tricks the robot into thinking it got a recording. Then I recieve something like this: “I am sorry to have missed you, call this number XXX-XXX-XXXX to receive your free credit consultation.” I hate it!

    Reason is someone with bad credit listed that number as their work number years ago and I am paying for it with robot calls.

  25. Swervo says:

    The downside I see is all of the robocalls I get on my voicemail start out about halfway through the call…after the opt-out info would have been given.

    So far, I haven’t had many calls to my cell phone (I don’t have a landline). The only two that have been hitting me with recorded messages are Stanley Steemer and George Brazil Plumbing.

  26. RedSonSuperDave says:

    Awesome. This is a step in the right direction. Personally I’d prefer to see all autodialers banned and anything that could possibly be “opt-in” to be so by law, but I’ll take what I can get.

  27. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s a good start, but I’d like to see the FTC announce an orbiting chain of laser satellites that would instantly neuter anyone associated with an offending company. Rather haphazardly.
    And their little dog too.

  28. williehorton says:

    I got a ‘Private’ call yesterday on my business phone. I let it go to voice mail, and it was “Robin Cecil” from the Better Business Bureau. I thought a customer had a complaint, so I called her back at 877-220-5868… she was telemarketing their “Accredited by BBB” program.
    I very nicely explained a few things to her:

    1. My core principles forbid doing business with telemarketers; if I ever wanted BBB accreditation, I won’t apply for it because she telemarketed me.

    2. Her employer, by assigning her to cold-call businesses, has put her one tiny step above – and I told her I was only saying “above” to be polite – a Viagra spammer.

    3. Normally, I would be telling her that any future calls from the company would result in criminal complaints against her personally, which she would need to travel to Delaware to defend… but, since she was with the BBB, there is no need to go there… unless anyone from the BBB calls me ever again, in which case the criminal complaints will have her name on it.

    4. I have devoted several minutes to explaining this politely because she is from a ‘legitimate’ organization. Most of my contacts with telemarketers — and any future conversations with the BBB — will be much shorter and more ‘anatomically specific.’

    Ms. Cecil claimed that I would not be called again, and promised to share my ‘concerns’ with her employer.

  29. Trencher93 says:

    The robocalls I get are already for illegal or shady purposes (there is nothing wrong with your credit, but call us so we can screw you). Therefore, why would someone who has already decided to break the law not also go ahead and break this new law?

  30. lenagainster says:

    My phone service (VoIP) allows an unlimited number of filters to block specific phone numbers, as well as anonymous callers. So telescum may call once, but that number gets blocked. (They get a not-in-service message). It has been effective in greatly reducing unwanted calls.

  31. chaitea says:

    We don’t get many business or scam calls, but a steady stream of political and especially charities calling.

    And these two categories aren’t covered by the new legislation?

    Okay then. No change for me.

  32. savvy999 says:

    @chaitea: I have literally stopped giving money to all of the national charities (American Lung Assn, Easter Seals, etc) because of the incessant calls. Yesterday I came home from work, there were FOUR messages from random charities asking for dough. I hope at some point I will just roll off their lists, it’s been about a year.

    Now I donate to smaller, local places, that assure me they don’t sell or give away my info.

    I wish I had a ‘throwaway phone number’, like my yahoo email account, to give to places like these. Well, I guess I do, it’s my landline. But here’s a huge business opp for someone– create a system where I can give away a bogus phone number, that will pile up the voicemails (like a spam filter), I can go online to check where they came from, and only listen to the ones which are clearly identified and I’m interested in. I would pay for that.

  33. temporaryerror says:

    savvy, I think that service is google Grand Central. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  34. Tankueray says:

    @savvy999: I think you can do that with Grand Central.

  35. HogwartsAlum says:


    I kept getting these; it would call and leave an 800 number on my machine. I kept deleting them, but finally I called back and said “I want to know why this number is on my machine.” They said “We are trying to get hold of such-and-such” and when I told them I had never heard of this person and had had this number since 2000, they apologized and never called back.

    So SOME of those people have manners. It might be worth a try.

  36. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    Death to the Katie Couric Verizon bot!

  37. WaywardSoul says:

    I’m a little late to the discussion but… who wants to bet that all these telemarketing companies will take anything except an opt-out as an opt in? Hang up? You’ve automatically opted in since you didn’t explicitly opt out. Answering machine pick up? You’ve automatically opted in since you didn’t explicitly opt out.