August 27, 2009

U.S. to ban most ‘robocalls’

Americans will get added protection from unwanted phone calls when a rule takes effect next week banning most robocalls, federal officials announced.

Most prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers will be prohibited beginning Sept. 1, the Federal Trade Commission said in a release posted on its Web site. Commercial robocalls will be permissible only if marketers have written authority from consumers who wish to receive them, the announcement said.

American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said.

Leibowitz said consumers will be able to report illegal robocalls online ( or by calling a toll-free number (1-877-382-4357). Violators could face penalties of up to $16,000 per call, the FTC said.

The ban does not apply to automated telephone calls delivering purely informational content, such as notices that a flight has been canceled or a home delivery will be made at a certain time. Also exempt are robocalls from debt collectors, politicians, banks, telephone carriers and most charitable organizations.

The new prohibition supplants a Dec. 1 rule requiring businesses covered by the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule to tell call recipients how they can opt-out of further calls.