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States push FCC to not allow straight-to-voicemail telemarketing messages

States push FCC to not allow straight-to-voicemail telemarketing messages
© Greg Nash

State attorneys general are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to not allow telemarketers to skip calling consumers and leave messages directly in their inboxes.

In a joint letter, attorneys general from New York, Massachusetts and Kentucky called on the commission to not increase the amount of robocalls or automated calls from telephone marketers, which they argue are already too rampant.

“The federal government has a basic responsibility to protect American consumers,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “That certainly doesn’t mean making it even easier for companies to spam them with costly, unsolicited, ringless robocalls.”

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Ringless voicemail companies are currently petitioning the FCC to allow the practice as the commission reviews the policy. Gizmodo reports that some companies, including one called All About The Message, are already doing ringless voicemail calls despite current laws.

“The act of depositing a voicemail on a voicemail service without dialing a consumers’ cellular telephone line does not result in the kind of disruptions to a consumer’s life — dead air calls, calls interrupting consumers at inconvenient times or delivery charges to consumers,” All About The Message argued in a recent comment to the FCC.

Republicans have supported the ringless voicemail firms. In a letter sent to the FCC last month, the Republican National Committee argued that preventing such ringless messages is potentially a “burden” on the freedom of speech.

“Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations — including direct-to-voicemail messages,” the RNC wrote. “The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest.”

The attorneys general disagree.

“Ringless voicemail bypasses important lines of defense for consumers and threatens the efficacy of call blocking applications which can protect consumers from scams and unlawful calls,” they wrote in their letter.

The FCC has made efforts to crack down more generally on robocalls, which have facilitated scams that have caused an estimated tens of millions in damages.