When is a robocall not a robocall?

New technology has been recently developed to deliver messages straight to a subscriber’s voicemail, without the phone ringing at all. All About the Message has developed this technology and has recently petitioned the FCC to declare these types of messages to be outside of the umbrella of the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act). The TCPA protects consumers from certain robocalls to their wireless phones, except for emergencies or in cases where the subscriber has pre-authorized the calls.

Recently the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the lobbying arm of the US Chamber of Commerce have argued that ringless robocalls are fine and have petitioned the FCC to allow them. In its petition to the FCC, the RNC makes an argument based on the first amendment: “The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest. Political speech is at the very core of the First Amendment, and subjecting direct-to- voicemail political messages to the TCPA would unnecessarily and improperly restrict that speech.”

More than a dozen consumer advocacy groups have filed comment with the FCC against the new use of this technology. In the joint comment, the groups argue that these ringless voicemails are “just as invasive, expensive, and annoying as calls and texts to cell phones. Granting the petitioner’s request would allow telemarketing and debt collection messages to overwhelm the voicemail boxes of consumers. Unlike their ability to limit calls and texts, consumers have no way to limit, restrict or bloc unwanted voicemail messages from particular callers.”

Since January, this FCC has reiterated its commitment to curbing the number of robocalls consumers must endure. So, it will be interesting to see what happens around this current petition for more robocalls to cell phones and TransNexus will keep updating this story as it evolves.