NEWSLETTER: Exploring the FCC’s New Rules for Robocalls

July 14, 2023

Austin Buholtz: Exploring the FCC’s New Rules for Robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently introduced new rules for robocalls to protect consumers from unwanted calls. Of these new rules, one of the most impactful is a rule that will now limit the number of robocalls placed to specific phone numbers to just three during any consecutive 30-day period. As a result of these new FCC regulations, all campaigns and organizations that utilize robocalls as a typical form of outreach will have to prepare and make adjustments for when the new regulations go into effect on July 20, 2023.

So, what exactly is changing?

The most significant difference to the FCC regulations on robocalls is that political campaigns and NPOs must limit the number of calls to individuals to just three calls per thirty days. The only way around this three-call limit would be to gain the call recipient’s oral or written consent, which is easier said than done. In the past, more than three calls to an individual in a month would not be something a campaign or organization would have to worry about. However, this is an important rule that will have to be strictly followed to stay compliant and not land an organization in hot water with the FCC. It’s also important to remember that live calls – which utilize live operators rather than pre-recorded messages – do not require consent and are a solution, albeit a more expensive solution, to calling people more than three times.

Another significant change to the FCC regulations on robocalls is the new requirement regarding the automated opt-out option. Like the common “Text STOP to end” opt-out option for text messages, robocalls must now offer an automated opt-out message within two seconds of identifying the caller. Additionally, each call must explicitly disclose the caller’s identity and phone number – this is crucial to understand because this now means that an opt-out option must be given before the robocall even has a chance to deliver the substance of the message. This option can be a voice authorization or a menu key press to opt-out. Once this step is completed by a person who wishes to be added to the do-not-call (DNC) list, the robocall system must immediately end the call and add the phone number to the DNC list. This change will completely change how robocall scripts are written and will undoubtedly lead to far fewer fully completed calls.

In compliance with existing regulations, robocalls are already obligated to include a contact number for the organization they are calling from. In addition to the other new rules, the opt-out option must be completable by providing a phone number to call to make DNC requests. When a call goes unanswered, any answering machine or voicemail message must include a toll-free number that allows the recipient to connect to the voice or key press opt-out mechanism described earlier.

Finally, the last new FCC requirement regards written policy and training. Nonprofit and political organizations engaging in robocalls must have a written policy outlining the procedures for maintaining a do-not-call list. This policy must be readily accessible upon request. Additionally, these organizations must train staff members involved in robocall operations to ensure their familiarity with and adherence to the relevant rules and regulations.

While the FCC’s rules apply on a federal basis, it is also important to note that, in addition to the FCC’s rules, the door is still open for state-level regulations to be imposed in addition to these new rules. So, organizations will also need to keep track of any new developments that occur state-by-state. It’s also critical to remember that robocalls are still prohibited to wireless cell phones unless consent has been obtained first.

So, what’s our takeaway from these new regulations?

Introducing these new major FCC regulations marks a significant step in the FCC’s crackdown on robocalls. By enforcing these rules, providing opt-out mechanisms, and honoring DNC requests, campaigns and nonprofit organizations should expect the utility of robocalls to diminish and their ability to spread messages to fall drastically. The best solution to dealing with these new robocall regulations would be to utilize live calls and peer-to-peer text messages, which do not require many of the regulations that will now apply to robocalls. In order to ensure compliance with FCC and state standards, businesses should seek legal counsel and stay current with all new rules. The FCC’s mission with these new requirements is to help ensure transparency and accountability with robocalls. With these new regulations, campaigns and organizations will need to strongly consider whether live calls, text messages, or robocalls are the best choice for their specific needs.

Ascent Strategic is committed to providing our clients with the phone services they need while making sure all calls, texts, and other phone services are conducted in compliance with FCC rules and state-level regulations.

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