Opinion Editorials

FCC fails to protect consumers, sides with slimy telemarketers

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(EDITORIAL) The FCC’s stance on telemarketing is wishy-washy at best as they crack down on robocalls but allow for robo-voicemails.

FCC for you and against you

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been cracking down on the robocalls that have cost companies million in scams.

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But soon, the same Commission may allow robocallers to send telemarketing messages directly to your voicemail.

Newest scandal

The controversy regards so-called “ringless” telemarketers that send messages straight to your voicemail box without your phone ever ringing. These telemarketers argue that because the phone never rings, and thus doesn’t interrupt the recipient of the call, these calls should not be subject to rules under the 1991 Telephone Consumers Protection Act.

One such company, called All About The Message, is already sending straight-to-voicemail messages despites the legal ambiguity of the practice.

They wrote in a comment to the FCC that a direct-to-voicemail call “does not result in… disruptions to a consumer’s life,” and therefore, should be allowed.

Consumer advocates disagree

They argue that, although ringless calls don’t disrupt the recipient’s dinner, direct-to-voicemail calls also eliminate the opportunity for the recipient to ask to be removed from the call list. Consumers have no way to screen such calls, and they can’t be prevented with call blocking apps.

Several state attorneys general also want the FCC to prohibit direct-to-voicemail calls.

In a letter also signed by the attorneys general of Massachusetts and Kentucky, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged the FCC to “protect American consumers,” and discouraged them from “making it even easier for companies to spam them with costly, unsolicited, ringless robocalls.”

First amendment card

Republicans, on the other hand, argue that direct-to-voicemail calls should be protected as a form of free speech. The Republican National Convention uses straight-to-voicemail messages in their campaigning, and wrote a letter to the FCC asking them to “tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech.”

If you have a strong opinion about this issue, today is the last day that FCC is receiving public comments before making their decision.

To comment, go to the FCC website then search for 02-278 under “Proceeding(s).”

Robocall perils

Personally, I don’t think that the Founding Fathers meant to cover robocalls when they made sure citizens had the right to free speech. When I go out in public, I expect to be advertised to, but I don’t want the privacy of my phone invaded.

My voicemail is for my own business and personal calls – telemarketers, keep away.

While it may seem like telemarketers are trying to be more respectful with ringless calls, it also seems like a sneaky away to avoid being told directly that their call is unwanted.

Telemarketers are so classically annoying as to be the butt of countless jokes and the cause of many exasperated groans. When will they learn that we simply don’t want to be bothered – whether the phone rings or doesn’t?

#Ringless

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