The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) operates a single National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov for both personal land lines and cell phones. Although the FTC notes that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) regulations prohibit telemarketers from utilizing automated dialers to call cell phone numbers without a consumer’s prior consent, the FTC allows consumers to “register” cell phone numbers (in addition to land line numbers) on the Registry in order to notify telemarketers that they don’t want to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls. Once a consumer registers a particular number, it will stay on the Registry until the consumer cancels the registration or discontinues service for that number.
If a consumer receives an unwanted sales call after more than 31 days have passed since placing a number on the Registry, the FTC encourages reporting that call. However, the FTC notes that the Registry only prohibit sales calls, meaning that companies may still make certain calls like political calls, charitable calls, debt collection calls, informational calls, and telephone survey calls. In addition, companies may make a sales call to a consumer if they have recently done business with the consumer or received written permission from the consumer.
In light of developing technology, the FTC has seen an increase in the last several years of illegal sales calls, particularly calls with pre-recorded messages and fake caller ID information known as “robocalls.” The FTC prohibits robocalls that promote the sale of any good or service. However, the FTC notes that certain pre-recorded messages are permitted — e.g. purely informational calls, political calls, calls from certain health care providers, calls related to collecting a debt, and calls made by banks, telephone carriers, and charities.
To combat illegal sales calls and robocalls, the FTC reports that it has sued hundreds of companies/individuals and obtained over a billion dollars, is coordinating with law enforcement and industry groups, and is pursuing the development of technology-based solutions. According to the FTC, companies that violate the Registry or conduct an illegal robocall may be fined up to $40,654 per call. Thus, companies should always make sure to follow proper procedures when making sales calls, particularly pre-recorded sales calls, to consumers.