Robocalls Banned!

Today the FTC banned pretty much all telemarketing-based robocalls starting Tuesday, September 1st, 2009. At that point, “violators will face penalties up to $16,000 per call,” notes the Los Angeles Times.

What’s not covered: pretty much what you’d expect, like robocalls from political groups, charities, and debt collectors. If the caller isn’t trying to sell you something, it doesn’t fall under FTC jurisdiction. (Things like flight and prescription alerts are also allowed.) We think political callers are trying to sell you something—a big fat pie made of lies, usually—but apparently the FTC doesn’t see it that way.

So beginning next Tuesday, if you receive an auto warranty or other telemarketer robocall, feel free to turn them in to the FTC:

Consumers who receive an unauthorized call starting Tuesday can file complaints with the commission online at or by calling (877) FTC-HELP.

“FTC bans most robocalls” [Los Angeles Times]
(Photo: M. Janicki)


Edit Your Comment

  1. DidIDoThat says:


    • nstonep says:

      @JessMeNU: They’ll just play the semantic game and alter them so they don’t get fined…just you wait and see!

      • bohemian says:

        @nstonep: This still does nothing about the companies spoofing phone numbers to cover their tracks. There is no way for the FTC to track down who is doing it. It also does nothing about overseas operations.

        We have been getting tons of calls every day on our landline from various card collection agencies. The company supposedly does this for various retail store cards. They are asking for some name I can’t pronounce and I have never had a store credit card in my life.

    • meltingcube says:

      AFAIK, this is only for robocallers using pre-recorded messages, thus doesn’t apply if it connects you with a human.

  2. Eldritch says:



  3. Anne Boleyn says:


  4. jwissick says:

    YEAH!!! Amen!!

  5. JollyJumjuck says:

    I hope this applies to US companies calling outside the US. I’m sick to death of “WHHAAAA! This is your captain calling” with NO option to be taken off their list, live person OR computer.

  6. dwb says:

    Yay! But dang I was hoping to get rid of the UC Davis Alumni Association, who despite my pleas won’t stop calling me to ask for money.

    • Rachacha says:

      @dwb: D0 what I did with my school, when they give you the sob story about how they need money, and how “the money will go to benifit incoming students achieve the high level of education and success that I was bale to achieve” simply reply..
      “Meh, I didn’t get anything out of my education, most of the professors were terrible, and you (because most of the callers are students) should seriously consider changing schools” and you will get taken off of the list permanently. :-)

    • chazcarr says:

      @dwb: Oh man you are reading my mind. As a UCD grad, I say the Alumni Association should be in charge of finding bin Laden because they can find me no matter where I move, and usually within days. DON’T GIVE THEM A THING!

    • pb5000 says:

      @dwb: My school called me once, I told them that if they could do anything to lower my student loan debt that I’d gladly give them the difference. Never heard from them again.

    • alternatestory says:

      @dwb: My dad is terrible about this — he likes to tell the caller from the alumni association, “I’ll give double what I gave last year!” and then they hang up all happy. As I’m sure you figured out, that’s just two scoops of nothing.

    • calquist says:

      @dwb: I am a former campus tour guide and a current wanttobebackincollegesomuchithurts, so whenever my college calls, I talk the student’s ear off for an hour. When I worked at the call center, I was so terrible at asking for money, so I feel like the student is happy to talk to someone who isn’t angry for a change.. Anyway, I end up just giving $25 (the minimum) each time they call, but I refuse to donate if they just send me a letter… in fact, I haven’t gotten a call in a long time.. maybe the trick is to talk their ear off and they will never call back again :(

      • raevenfeather says:

        @calquist: I’m amazed your college has a minimum. I would absolutely not give if I was told there is a min. Luckily my alma mater will accept anything you give them.

        • calquist says:

          @raevenfeather: Yeah, and it is only for desperate bargaining. They try not to go lower than $50, but since I worked there, I knew they took $25. It costs them approx. $11.00 to per donation (credit card fees, information packet, thank you letters, paying for employees… at least that is what they told us). It really wasn’t an issue either, if people were willing to donate in the first place (which is the struggle) I never had an offer for less than $50 except once and it was $2.00. I think it also depends on the school and the alumni. I’m sure this wouldn’t fly at some schools, but my school was in the Big 12, so we have tons of alumni.

          • dragonfire81 says:

            @calquist: $11 PER DONATION??? That seems like someone failed accounting. You shouldn’t need to take an $11 cut off every donation to cover your overhead.

  7. lpranal says:

    So, where does all the money they collect from fines go?

    I vote for a foosball table in the break room.

  8. j-o-h-n says:

    Sept 2, 2009 – loophole found in new robocall law

  9. Shoelace says:

    It’s fantastic news, but will the robocall companies just slink away? I’m concerned about what may be coming to fill the nuisance void. Also, if a robocall comes 9/1 or later how do you sue them – since it’s unlikely that their correct number will appear on caller ID.

    • legwork says:

      @Shoelace: Next, robo-door-to-door sales bots. Based on the popular yet often returned Roomba, these helpful little commerce boosters will distract difficult customers and use their finely tuned dust bunny suction and new turbo speed to run with the cash.

      Okay, that sucks but you get the point.

  10. GitEmSteveDave_♥'sRenegadeIrishman says:

    So the Magic Voice who calls telling me to press 1 now. Press 1 to protect my family. Press 1 blah blah blah from ADT without telling me how to unsubscribe will be banned? Oh happy days!

  11. kathyl says:

    Debt collectors shouldn’t be exempt. Whenever I’ve had to change phone numbers, I always get one that was recently used by someone who has about 100 debt collectors chasing them and I get call after call looking for someone who isn’t me, but they’re always robots who can’t register that I’m not the person they’re looking for. They always want me to call another number and I’ll be damned if I’m going to keep chasing after people telling them I’m not the person they’re looking for.

    If that first call had to be a real, live person, I could tell them that I’m not the one who owes them money and then get ticked off when they appear not to believe me. Hmmm, all of a sudden I’m not sure that’s a step up.

    • JohnAllison says:

      I completely agree. The same thing happened to me when I moved up North. The conversation with the Minneapolis PD was especially entertaining.

      MPD: Hi is Jennifer there?
      Me: Who is calling
      MPD: Susan
      Me: Who are you with Susan?
      MPD: Minneapolis PD
      Me: Susan, I’ve had this number for 2 years since I move to the twin cities, I have no idea who this person is. Please don’t call me again.
      MPD: Ok, I’m sorry, have a good day.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @kathyl: And even if it was you, you wouldn’t want someone coming after you for money. But debt collectors should be more vigilant about going after the correct people.

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      @kathyl: EXACTLY! I couldn’t agree more. I just had one this morning. It’s one thing for them to auto-dial and not pick up until they hear a voice, but for the entire call to be a robot? Why should I be the one that has to do all the legwork when I’m not remotely at fault?

    • Nascar24Dude says:

      Yeah, something similar happened when I got my cellphone ( I was 17 at the time ). In the first two weeks, I got three calls, with the caller looking for a “Greg Osborne”; and one of those calls was from Bank of America. After the third call, my mother called AT&T and got my number changed.

    • Im Just Saying says:

      @kathyl: Having been a collector for 8 years, this is as annoying for us as it is for you. We don’t want to waste our time any more than we want to waste yours.

      That being said, if the collector doesn’t immediately move on when you tell them it’s a new number, it’s safe to say that agency is shady.

  12. Super Moose says:

    Goodbye StoreOnline. You won’t be wasting my time anymore.

  13. H3ion says:

    Can I use robocalls to invite people to my party celebrating the end of legal robocalls?

  14. H3ion says:

    This doesn’t stop the calls. It just means that a bunch of people in India, El Salvador, etc. will be making the same calls live. GET CALLER ID. LIVE WITH IT. TREASURE IT. OBEY IT.

    • nstonep says:

      @H3ion: Actually (from what I’ve been told) the majority of “support” for customers is in Malaysia and Thailand. But tech support is still pretty much Indian guys with engineering degrees.

      I look at it this way…tech support (ie help desk) in the US would be a guy with a high school diploma and an A+ certification (maybe); while in India the bulk would have a computer science/engineering degree. Maybe the English isn’t so good but they probably know what they’re doing.

      • Snarkysnake says:


        I predict that if the robocalls are now going to be made from India ,Thailand etc. that there will be a THOUSANDFOLD increase in the number of items being sold to our good friends Hugh Jass , I.P Freely , Al Koholik and Seymour Butts.

        Now, I am NOT telling ANY of you to give the address of 600 Pennsylvania Avenue , Washignton D.C. ,20580 because that is the address of the FTC and they are plenty busy. That would be wrong.

      • Hank Scorpio says:

        The problem with your logic is that outsourced support (whether it’s in India or the US) usually handles calls for several different companies and products. The person who answers your call (as educated as they might be) doesn’t know a thing about the specific product you’re calling about, and is just reading a troubleshooting flow chart. So, no, they probably do not know what they are doing.

        It used to be (“back in the day”), that if you called a tech company, you got someone who worked for that company, who was trained on their products (and usually on specific products within the company) and knew what they were talking about. If you also knew what you were talking about, tech support calls were usually pretty quick and painless things (quick, once you got past the hold queue, that is). You could just tell the person the problem, things you may have already done to try to resolve it and the results of those actions, and any other thoughts you had about the problem, skiping all the preliminary troubleshooting, and they would tell you what to try next (or even jump right to the solution). You can’t do that with someone who is reading a flowchart and has no actual knowledge of or experience with the thing you are calling about.

        There are still companies that have good tech support. Apple, for one. If you’ve ever used Microsoft’s pay-per-incident support, they’re outstanding. But, these are companies that have highly trained people taking calls, not some schmo reading a script.

        Sorry for the long, off topic rant. I just really, really hate outsourced tech support!

  15. Marshfield says:

    I will break out the streamers when I find out how many actually GET fined or sanctioned. I suspect they will be too slippery to actually get prosecuted.

  16. Telekinesis123 says:

    Not in Canada hey :/

  17. Glenalth says:

    I was alerted to this by a robocall telling me that I need to sign up if I want to continue getting special offers via telephone from some company I’ve never heard of before. I suppose I can put up with that for the next few days :)

  18. Sheogorath says:

    Of course by ‘up to $16,000 per call’ they mean ‘approximately nothing if you happen to be a major company.’

    Fortunately we can all rest easy knowing AT&T pays a hundred times that in bribes yearly.

  19. caj11 says:

    This will be great if it actually gets enforced. What I REALLY wish would get banned is “wardialing” by telemarketers, where computers are dialing lots of numbers at once, including mine, and then when I pick up the phone, there is no one on the other end, just dead air and then usually a click because a telemarketer isn’t available at the time to speak with you. It is so irritating.

  20. Neurotic1 says:

    I wonder if that includes my local politicians.

  21. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Makes no difference. Ever since the Do Not Call registry was implemented, telemarketers simply shifted their operations outside of the US. Canada is a popular choice. I’ve received a bunch of robo calls a while ago. I spoke to the operator and I could detect a Canadian accent.

    Recently, I spoke to an operator from India. It was some debt collection agency looking for a guy I never heard of. He asked if perhaps my phone number was new. I told him no, and that I had the same number for over 10 years. He apologized and said he would remove my number from their list. Somehow, I doubt it.

    My main gripe with these robo calls (from telemarketers, debt collectors, politicians, etc), is that they spoof their caller ID. It’s either anonymous or it’s a completely bogus number. So there’s no way to call back to complain, and no way to block calls from these people.

  22. zimmi88 says:

    I propose this music for celebration…

  23. sgtyukon says:

    now if they’d make it illegal for my doctor to use robocalls to confirm my appointments when he plans to be an hour or two late for every one of them, we’d be achieving something.

  24. CFinWV says:

    Awwww. I get mildly amused every time they call my fax machine.

  25. floraposte says:

    I’m skeptical of the effect of this–all the robocalls I get are either exempt or currently in breach of federal law already, mostly the latter, so I’m guessing that they mostly don’t care about federal law whether it’s a new one or an old one.

  26. ARP says:

    I can’t believe you’re happy about this. That Nazi-Socialist Obama is trying to suppress free speech.


  27. firemunkie says:

    um when i preorder a game from gamestop, they call me a couple days before hand to remind me. is that a nono now? how about timewarner when they call me to “remind” me to pay my bill?

  28. aswearengen says:

    Great, so the local police department can continue to try to strong arm me into giving them money?

    Is there the old “previous business” exemption – meaning, if you’ve done business with the company before they can call the hell out of you?

    And it’s not going to help enforcement when I get the “unknown caller” on my caller ID. How am I supposed to report the number if I don’t know it.

    And calls for other people who used to have my number are really annoying. I keep getting calls from the person’s vet telling me their dog is ready for pickup. You would think someone would figure out they have the wrong number when the dog isn’t picked up.

    • amuro98 says:

      You do know those places claiming to be collecting for “The Sheriff’s Department” aren’t actually connected to your – or any – law enforcement agency, right?

      It’s a scam outfit that named itself “Your Local Sherrif’s Office” and does nothing but beg for money. Oh, they DO make a contribution…but it’s like 1% of what they collect from you.

      Unfortunately, since they are recognized as a “Charity” they fall under the exemptions in the unsolicited phone call laws.

  29. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    What about robotic collection calls? Apparently, the guy who used to have my landline number owed a lot of people money.

  30. Vandelay Import Export says:

    But most of the robocalls I get are from political groups and charities.

  31. cmdrsass says:

    Good luck getting the FTC to do anything about a robocall. They are toothless.

  32. muddgirl says:

    Wait, does this include those stupid “sweepstakes” robo calls that I get all the time? Technically, the call itself isn’t selling anything…

  33. NoDavidOnlyZuul says:

    Do we get a share of the fines for emotional and mental anguish? i get at least 2 calls a day from MCSI Collections. it’s a robocall that states that i have violated a municipal code somewhere. It’s so stupid. I’d like to beat the person who had the phone number before me.

    On my cell I get robo-collection calls for Julia Irving.

  34. Doug Nelson says:

    So now all robocalls will begin “this is not a sales call”

  35. PLATTWORX says:

    Sadly, it does not include local politicians and almost all the robo calls I get are from them. I don’t answer, but their “robos” are kind enough to leave their whole message on my machine.

    How does robo calling citizens endear you to them when it’s time to get re-elected???? If anything, I would think it would cost votes.

  36. lalaland13 says:

    The auto warranty calls had pretty much gone, but I am still happy about this. Maybe the “please call for a great money-making opportunity” ones will stop now as well. Still not sure how to get people who think I’m Ashley off my back.

    • amuro98 says:


      My favorite is from the people claiming “your wife may have been violated during your last mortgage refinancing.”

      I have no idea what they’re actually trying to sell. My guess the nigerians found a robocaller, paid someone to record their sales pitch, and either the person’s English was bad, or she decided to screw the nigerians over. After all, they wouldn’t be any wiser now would they.

  37. amuro98 says:

    Wait a second, I’m confused…

    Wasn’t this already illegal?

    My understanding was that it was already illegal to:
    * Use a robocall system under any circumstance.
    * Leave an automated cold call on your answering machine.
    * Make any sort of cold call if you’re on the DNC list.
    (exceptions for politicians and charities noted)

    So what changed here? Do we really need our laws to say: “No sales calls” “and that means you too, you robocaller scumbags!”

  38. PsiCop says:

    I hate the sales robocalls; lately I’ve been getting them for chimney-cleaning services, of all things, in addition to the ubiquitous car-warranty calls that have been the bane of everyone’s existence the last few months.

    But the calls that annoy me most are the political ones. For some reason I appear to have gotten onto lists belonging to both major parties. Last year was a nightmare. I was treated to dire robo-warnings about candidates throughout the primary and general-election seasons.

    (I also get a lot of pollsters calling but those are human callers, not robots, and they ask politely if you want to participate first.)

    Those political calls will apparently continue forever … yuck.

  39. HogwartsAlum says:

    Okay, I just sent this:

    Dear Mr. [Roy] Blunt,
    I just heard about FTC ban to eliminate robocalls. Please do not exempt yourself and your fellow politicians from this. Your robocalls are just as irritating as the auto warranty ones.

    If you look on the Internet, and read comments on websites such as and others, you will also see that ROBOCALLS WILL COST YOU VOTES. People hate this, and they will not cast their ballot for politicians who continue to irritate them. Thank you.

    [my real name]
    [my city]

    It said this after I hit Submit:
    “Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate hearing from you and will be pleased to respond through the U.S. Postal Service to residents of the 7th District of Missouri. I regret that I cannot respond to you via e-mail because my office cannot ensure the security and validity of all e-mail messages, nor can we prevent anyone from intercepting and changing our messages to misrepresent my positions on issues of importance to you.

    As always, your views and opinions are very important to me. Thanks again for writing. I will be back in touch with you as soon as possible.”

    Sure, by robocalling me! :)

  40. brokebackwallet says:

    Thankfully I have never been the target of those robocalls (living on another continent).

    More people really should start using smartphones. My new one came with call filtering software and I left it running 24/7. Unwanted callers and those with blocked number get instant busy tone when trying to call me.

  41. juri squared says:

    HOORAY! These are the only telemarketers that call me nowadays, so I will be very happy to see them go.

    Now if only the debt collectors looking for stupid Jennifer would leave me alone. I’ve had this cell number for four years and they still call me sometimes.

  42. SgtMajorFragg says:

    I got a cellphone with a new number in May and I’m getting continually hammered with calls from a debt collector for the woman that used to have my number.

    I’ve configured the number to ring ‘mute,’ but I still get a voice mail recording: “This is an attempt to collect a debt.”

    From what I’ve read on the intertubes about this debt collector, they are relentless.

    Maybe these calls will stop now.

  43. Haggie1 says:

    I understand debt collectors because you have a previously existing business relationship with them, but there is no reason for political parties and charities to be exempted from robo-calling.

    And if you want my vote or my donation, robo-calling me is the LAST thing you want to do.

  44. vladthepaler says:

    It’s a good start, but robocalls should not be allowed unless explicitly opted in to.