Robocall Companies Are Currently & Quietly Asking FCC To Exempt Them From 'Do Not Call' Protections By Working Behind Scenes To Change The Rules That Limit Telemarketer Access To Your Mobile Phone 

Sick-And-Tired NYC & LI Consumers Received More Than 76 Million Robocalls Last Month Alone; Senator Says Robocall Epidemic Demands FCC Side With Consumers & Deny Ringless Voicemails  

Schumer To FCC: Robocalls Are On Fire—Don't Throw Gas On Problem By Approving New Spam Method

Amidst an era of increasing robocalls to mobile phones, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a new spam method called 'ringless voice mail' technology, which would allow telemarketers to inundate a person's voicemail box without letting the phone ring. 

"With billions of robocalls made to cellphones each year, the feds should be doing more to reign in annoying telemarketers, not throw gas on the problem and add fuel to cellphone spam," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. "If ringless voice mail technology is exempt from federal regulations, consumers could see their voice mail boxes inundated with unimportant messages, confusing consumers and making it harder or even impossible to get real messages. That's why I am urging the FCC to deny any request that would allow for more telemarketing messages and side with the consumers."

Schumer explained that under a new federal rule change petition (CG Docket No. 02-278), submitted by a ringless voice mail provider (“All About the Message, LLC” (AATM)), the FCC would exempt ringless voice mail technology from federal ‘Do Not Call’ regulations. Schumer said that if the FCC goes along with this petition, millions of consumers could see their voicemail inboxes flooded with messages from annoying telemarketers, some who may be trying to scam the individual. Schumer today urged the FCC to deny this request and side with the consumers. The FCC is currently collecting public comments on this petition regarding ringless voice mail technology.

Schumer explained that ringless voice mail technology involves a process by which telemarketers use technology software to transfer voicemails to individuals using service-to-service technology. With this technology, the phone being called doesn't ring, but rather receives an alert that they have received a voicemail message. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), calls made using an autodialer or pre-recorded voice are prohibited without the express prior consent of the individual being called. However, telemarketers feel that their technology should be exempt from the TCPA because ringless voice mails do not make actual phone calls.

Robocalls are phone calls that use automated dialing machines and, in some cases, these types of calls are made by fraudulent companies trying to steal money from the person on the other end of the phone. Many times, these calls are placed using caller ID “spoofing.” Companies that resort to caller ID “spoofing” can make the caller ID display the phone number of a government agency, credit card company, bank, or even just another consumer. Under the “Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009,” this practice is illegal if used for the purpose of defrauding or otherwise causing harm.  However, despite the fact that many of these calls clearly violate the law, it is difficult if not impossible to catch the perpetrators, many of whom are overseas and/or hiding behind fake numbers.

The National “Do-Not-Call” Registry, managed by the FTC, was implemented in 2003 after the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003. The registry is designed to give people a choice about whether they would like to receive telemarketing calls at home. It was created to limit the number of telemarketing calls and robocalls made to U.S. households. In order to register, one may log onto the “Do-Not-Call” website and their phone number will be permanently placed in the registry. 

Despite federal ‘Do Not Call’ rules, millions of individuals continue to receive unwanted spam calls. According to the Consumers Union, there are currently over 222 million phone numbers in the registry. If a person who is listed on the registry receives a telemarketing call, he or she can file a complaint on the “Do-Not-Call” website. In 2015, there were more than 3 million complaints about Do Not Call violations and 77 percent of consumers are 'highly annoyed' by robocalls.

According to YouMail, a robocall blocking service and data aggregator, there were 2.6 billion robocalls in May 2017. Atlanta is the number one area affected by robocalls. New York City’s “917” area code ranked number six in May 2017 on the list of top robocall affected area codes. New York City’s 347” area code ranked number seven on that same list. In total, these two NYC area codes were targeted by an estimated 56 million robocalls in May 2017. According to Youmail, Nassau County’s “516” area code received a total of 12.5 million robocalls in May 2017 and Suffolk County’s “631” area code received a total of 8.6 million robocalls in May 2017. All in all, in May alone, the New York City and Long Island market saw over 76 million robocalls.

In addition to being an annoyance, Schumer explained that robocalls can also hurt consumers financially when they involve scammers. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, robocalls have resulted in approximately $350 million in financial losses each year. Schumer pointed to a recent robocall tax scam that has continued to threaten individuals, some in New York, by telling victims that they owe money to the IRS. The Consumers Union has said that, according to the federal government, approximately 5,000 consumers fell victim to the IRS crime, losing approximately $26.5 million.

Schumer has long supported efforts to crackdown on robocalls. For instance, Schumer has supported federal legislation that would drastically increase punishments for telemarketing companies that continue to make robocalls. Schumer also introduced the ROBOCOP Act, which would direct the FCC to enact regulations that require providers of telecommunications services or IP-enabled voice services, for no additional charge, to enable robocall blocking technology with exceptions for calls made by a public safety entity or where the recipient provides prior consent to receive the call. 

Schumer today urged the FCC to not allow telemarketers to use ringless voice mail technology. Schumer said that if telemarketers were exempt from current regulation and allowed to send ringless voice mails without prior consent, consumers could be inundated with unwanted voicemail messages. Schumer said that this technology could clog a person's voicemail box and take up a person's precious time as they sift through the messages and delete ones that are unimportant. Schumer said that, with over 2 billion robocalls last month alone, the FCC should be doing more to reign in telemarketing phone calls rather than make it easier for marketers to overwhelm consumers. 

Below is the Senator’s letter to the FCC:

Dear Chairman Pai,

I write today to strongly oppose the Commission’s open petition to exempt ringless voicemails from key consumer protections established by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).  Ringless voicemail technology allows callers to deposit a voicemail on a consumer’s phone without the phone ever ringing.  Even though these voicemails may be quieter than what we traditionally think of as cellphone spam, they are no less intrusive or annoying to consumers.

The TCPA was designed to prevent consumers from being plagued by unwanted and unsolicited calls.  While the statute was an important and significant step forward, if you ask any consumer today, they will tell you current law is absolutely inadequate to keep them from being harassed and irritated by spam on their cellphones.  In fact, in May of 2017 alone, consumers received 2.6 billion robocalls, according to YouMail. 

Ringless voicemail would be yet another way for consumers to feel that their phones are not their own.  Unsolicited, spam robocall voicemails could flood mailboxes, clogging out legitimate messages.  

As policymakers, what we should be doing is finding ways to make current law stronger and tighter; the government should not begin to contemplate allowing new and different ways for consumers to be overwhelmed by unwanted messages.

Accordingly, I urge you to swiftly reject the ringless voicemail petition.   Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Charles E. Schumer

US Senator


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