updated 09:20 pm EST, Wed February 15, 2012
Commission responds to public outcry
The Federal Communication Commission has moved to tighten regulations that restrict telemarketers from contacting individuals through unwanted calls or text messages. The FCC's telemarketing rules (PDF) now require companies to obtain written consent from consumers before placing calls, while text messaging and voice calls are now covered under the same regulations.
The commission has also removed the "establish business relationship" exemption, which allowed companies to make repeated calls to their own customers, even if the contact was not related to products or services that the customers had already purchased.
For individuals who give consent but later regret the decision, the FCC has imposed a new rule that requires companies to provide an automated "opt-out" option during each call. Telemarketers also face new restrictions designed to prevent "dead air" calls that arise when automated machines dial numbers even if a representative is not yet available to complete the call.
"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 in a statement.
The FCC still provides relaxed provisions for informational calls that have been found to be welcomed by many consumers, including calls related to school closings or flight changes.