NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- It's bad enough getting an unwanted call from a telemarketer, but even more annoying when what's on the other end of the line is a pre-recorded message.
The good news is that the government just took a decisive step in regulating "robocalling." Under rules issued Wednesday by the Federal Communications Commission, telemarketers will be required to get express written consent from consumers before they're allowed to make robocalls. Telemarketers will also be forbidden from claiming that consent is implied due to a prior business relationship with the consumer -- for instance, if you've done business with an Internet provider.
Here are answers to some questions you might have about the rules.
|The FCC just passed new rules making it harder for telemarketers to leave you a pre-recorded message.|
If I give consent, can I change my mind?
While we can't imagine many people will choose to opt in to getting robocalls from telemarketers, if you do decide you'd like to hear what a company has to say and later change your mind, you'll be able to take your number off the list. "Should consumers change their minds and decide that they no longer want to receive even those calls, they will soon be able to easily opt out at any point during a call through the automated functionality we now require," explained commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn in a statement.
Before the rules can become official, the Office of Management and Budget must publish approval in the Federal Register. Once that happens, the clock starts ticking: Telemarketers will have exactly 12 months to implement the rule requiring express written consent from consumers, and the "prior business relationship" exemption will be phased out during the same period. But another deadline will come more quickly for robocallers: Within 90 days of the rules becoming official, telemarketers will have to implement the interactive mechanism that allows consumers to opt out of getting robocalls. >>Finding Unclaimed Cash What if a telemarketer breaks the rules?
If after 90 days you get a robocall without an opt-out mechanism, or after 12 months you get a robocall you didn't consent to, your best bet is to complain directly to the FCC. Visit FCC.gov/complaints, select the "Telemarketing, Prerecorded Messages, Caller ID Spoofing and Do-Not-Call" option, and follow the instructions to file your complaint. Are any robocalls exempt?
The rules apply only to telemarketers, which means certain classes of robocalls will still be allowed. For instance, if your pharmacy wants to inform you that your prescription is available, it may use an automatic calling service, as can public schools that wish to inform you of school closings. And calls made by charities or political campaigns will still be legal under the rules, with or without your consent. >To submit a news tip, email: email@example.com. Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.