News From Our Blog

Answering Your Questions About Robocalls

There has been a lot of commentary about the July 23rd post regarding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and robocalls, so we thought we would follow up with a bit more information.

First, we want to clarify the rules. The FTC has laws forbidding any sales robocall unless you’ve given your express written permission to receive it.

Some other types of robocalls are legal, such as informational calls from your doctor, calls from legitimate charities, and political messages. (In general, by the way, political robocalls are protected by the First Amendment.)

One commenter asked about calls from those claiming to be doing a research survey – the answer is that these calls are legal if the purpose of the call truly is to conduct a survey, but if the call is ultimately trying to sell you something, it’s illegal.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in calls from fraudsters who are apparently willing to both violate the laws against robocalls and ignore the Do Not Call Registry.

This is because over the past two years, new technologies have made it cheap and simple to send out millions of calls with just the click of a mouse. These technologies also make it easier to hide one’s location and evade law enforcement. With the combination of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, cloud computing, auto-dialing software, and other advances, it is now possible to make robocalls for 1 cent per call or less, while also obscuring one’s identity quite effectively.

In the face of these changes, the FTC has continued its aggressive law enforcement efforts against robodialers. The agency has brought 12 enforcement cases targeting illegal robocalls, and violators have paid $5.6 million in total penalties so far.

Since January 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has shut down the companies responsible for more than 2.6 billion illegal telemarketing robocalls. We continue to pursue this approach, targeting high volume offenders and focusing on “chokepoints” in the calling process to stop the largest number of illegal calls. We use consumer complaints to do our targeting, which is why it helps us if you report illegal robocalls to donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

In addition to these law enforcement activities, the FTC is pursuing technological solutions. We’ve been holding meetings and calls with engineers, technologists, and industry experts to discuss how we can better trace calls, combat caller ID spoofing, and stop illegal robocalls.

In addition, we’re hosting a public Summit in Washington, DC on October 18, 2012, which will bring together law enforcement, legitimate industry, consumer groups, and other stakeholders in pursuit of the same goal. Please visit ftc.gov/robocalls to look for up-to-date information about the different initiatives underway.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for your interest in this topic. Here at the FTC, we share your frustration and are doing everything in our power to stop illegal robocallers in their tracks.

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