The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has clarified its stance on how members of congress can use autodialers. The verdict? Get rid of your landline if you don't want politicians to robo-call you.
The FCC FAQ sheet [PDF] told congresscritters that their precious tele-townhall robocalls are safe from legal action, so long as they remain non-political and are only made without permission to landlines.
"Robocalls to constituents for participation in tele-town halls are informational and not telemarketing," the Commission explained.
"Because these robocalls are not telemarketing, they can be made to a constituent's residential landline phone without obtaining consent prior to initiating the call."
Mobile lines, on the other hand, will always require permission. The FCC only allows robo-calls to be made to those who have expressly given their permission for such calls.
The FCC noted that politicians and non-profit political campaign groups can get permission from mobile phone owners in a variety of ways. In addition to seeking permission from written or online agreements, users can be first called in-person by an operator who can then get permission to make future calls via robo-dialers.
Commercial robo-calls require permission, whether on landline or mobile phones.
The release of the sheet comes after FCC chairman Tom Wheeler told congress that in some cases, their beloved tele-townhall robocalling systems could be violating FCC laws on user privacy and unwanted phone calls. The FCC boss and Rep Greg Walden (R-OR) had an exchange over the legality of robo-calls that left some members of congress worried that the auto-dialing tools they use to connect with constituents might be illegal.
The FCC said that it has not changed any of its rules, but simply wants to clarify to congresscritters what is and isn't allowed when it comes to phoning up the public.
"The Commission's recent robocall actions did not impose new restrictions on tele-town halls or congressional outreach to constituents," the FCC said.
"Since the early 1990s, informational calls to residential landline phones have been permitted without restriction, while such calls to mobile phones have required consumer consent." ®