FCC warns campaigns about robocalls

Two weeks before Election Day, the Federal Communications Commission wants campaigns to know not to abuse voters with robocalls.

The agency issued an advisory on Tuesday noting the “clear limits” on campaigns’ use of prerecorded, autodialed calls and text messages, and noted that campaigns may be on the hook for millions of dollars if they cross those lines.  

The FCC is “closely monitoring this space and will not hesitate to act to protect consumer privacy and their freedom from the nuisance of unwanted calls,” the agency said in its notice

“We expect that this Advisory will lead to greater compliance with the law and rules by senders of political prerecorded voice messages and autodialed calls, and we again warn those who choose to use these tools to strictly observe their legal limits,” it added.

By law, it is illegal for campaigns or companies to robocall people on their cellphones, except in an emergency or when the recipient has already given consent

Robocalls to landline phones are legal so long as the campaigns clearly identify whoever is behind the call along with their phone number. Automated calls to emergency lines, nursing homes or hospital rooms are illegal, however, unless the recipient has agreed to receive the calls.

Each violation can lead to a $16,000 charge.

There are no restrictions on live calls dialed by hand. The national Do-Not-Call registry, which people can use to avoid telemarketers, does not apply to political calls.

The FCC has acted before.

Earlier this year, the agency fined a conservative New Mexico-based robocalling firm $2.9 million for calling people on their cellphones.

Dialing Services LLC claimed to have worked for Republican campaigns for more than two decades, including former President George W. Bush and ex-presidential nominee Mitt Romney.