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'Robocall' ban soon to be in effect

WASHINGTON — Beginning Sept. 1, prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers, commonly known as robocalls, will be prohibited, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls, the Federal Trade Commission announced.

The new requirement is part of amendments to the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) that were announced a year ago.

After Sept. 1, sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

The rule amendments do not prohibit calls that deliver purely “informational” recorded messages. The amendments also do not apply to calls concerning collection of debts where the calls do not seek to promote the sale of any goods or services.

In addition, calls not covered by the TSR, including those from politicians, banks, telephone carriers, and most charitable organizations, are not covered by the new prohibition. The new prohibition on prerecorded messages does not apply to certain healthcare messages.

The new rule prohibits telemarketing robocalls to consumers whether or not they previously have done business with the seller.

Under a previous rule that took effect Dec. 1, 2008, telemarketing robocall messages by businesses covered by the TSR must tell consumers how to opt-out of further calls at the start of the message, and provide an automated opt-out mechanism that is voice or keypress-activated. Prerecorded messages left on answering machines must also provide a toll-free number that connects to the automated opt-out mechanism.

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