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HomeGeneralU.S Government Tackles Robocalls to Protect Americans From Scam Callers

U.S Government Tackles Robocalls to Protect Americans From Scam Callers

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Anyone with a mobile phone knows the unpleasant sensation of answering a call from an unfamiliar number.

Often, this results in hearing a pre-recorded marketing or scam pitch from a company you have no interest in patronizing.

Americans receive around 33 million robocalls daily, as the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) reported, amounting to more than 50 billion a year.

This is more than just an annoyance; in 2022, around 68 million Americans lost over $29 billion to scam callers, according to NCLC. These calls also make people less likely to answer their phones.

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Additionally, they diminish trust in valid phone calls, making the nation’s significant telecommunications infrastructure less valuable. One of the most frustrating things about these calls, says Margot Saunders, senior counsel at NCLC, is that they are largely illegal.

Government regulations specify that telemarketing calls are only legal for cell phones or residential lines. This is permissible only if the call’s recipient has provided “prior express written consent” to that call.

(This is similar to the rules of the National Do Not Call Registry, though consumers must opt into that registry through the Federal Trade Commission website.) But often, the sellers and the telemarketers calling for them don’t have this consent.

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They’re getting away with continuing to make these calls because the sellers often hire telemarketing firms. These firms, sometimes big and well-known companies, make the calls on their behalf.

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Often, these telemarketing firms buy consumer information—and, they argue, consent—from other companies in a billion-dollar business called lead generation. Lead generators typically take one agreement from a consumer providing consent.

They then sell that agreement to many different callers and sellers, who, in turn, resell it to many others. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the government made it much harder for sellers to call numbers obtained from the lead generation industry.

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The Federal Communications Commission approved regulations in a 4-to-1 vote. These regulations explicitly state that telemarketing robocalls are allowed only if the actual seller has obtained written consent.

This consent must be obtained directly from the specific consumer, not just the telemarketing company. “Today we put an end to this loophole,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the FCC meeting.

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“That means consumers regain the power to pick who they want to communicate with and when.” The vote should help cut down on the number of robocalls made. According to Congress, each illegal call can lead to $500 in damages.

“It will be much  more difficult for sellers to try and escape responsibility,” Saunders says. The Electronic Privacy Information Center projected that the vote would eliminate the “great majority” of unwanted telemarketing calls and texts.

It might take some time before any changes occur. If companies persist in violating the rules, regulators may rely on consumers to report them and file lawsuits to hold these companies accountable.

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