In addition to placing new requirements on VoIP services, the FCC today approved new measures designed to help consumers better deflect unwanted telemarketing calls and spam SMS messages. "Consumers by the thousands have complained to us, letting us know that they remain unhappy with having their privacy invaded and their time wasted by these unwanted calls," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Going forward, telemarketers will need to receive written permission — via either physical or electronic means — prior to reaching out to consumers with prerecorded or direct calls. Further, the agency has reversed a stipulation that once allowed businesses to dial current and former customers with new offers unrelated to the services that had been provided previously. Crucially, the commission categorizes auto-dialed text messages as "calls" under these rules, enabling both means of communication to be blanketed by the protections. For its part, the CTIA has chimed in with a positive response to the FCC move; the association reiterates that it asked for such steps to be taken back in January.
Even after giving initial consent, consumers will now have an easier time of reversing course and putting a stop to annoying robocalls. Telemarketers must implement an opt-out method giving those on the receiving end the option of immediately being added to a do-not-call list with just a few button presses. The agency claims it has also closed a loophole that will significantly reduce the odds of consumers getting "dead air" calls, which typically occur when telemarketers overextend and place more calls to homes than they are adequately staffed for.
Informational calls — which tend to include school closings and flight changes, for example — are said to be unaffected by the newly adopted ruleset. Finally, the FCC says its requirements now largely mirror those of the FTC, consistency which it believes will ultimately reduce confusion for companies. The FCC isn't exactly entering uncharted territory here; the new requirements fall under powers granted to it in 1991.