RNC, Chamber Of Commerce Want Robocallers To Be Able To Spam Your Voicemail Without Your Phone Ringing
from the the evolution of annoyance dept
The GOP’s leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has thrown its support behind an initiative that could allow marketing firms and robocallers to spam your voicemail inbox — without your phone ever ringing. Under former FCC boss Tom Wheeler, the agency notably ramped up its assault on annoying robocalls. That included some particularly notable pressure on AT&T, which for years had provided a rotating crop of excuses as to why its customers continued to get hammered by phone marketers even if included on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Under current law, marketers aren’t allowed to annoy you via your cellular phone unless you give your express, written consent. In the hopes of boosting revenues without running afoul of the law, the industry has begun pushing for exemptions in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act for “ringless voicemail,” which would allow a company to leave you a marketing message in your voicemail, without your phone ringing. Of course you’d be hard-pressed to find a single consumer that thinks this is a good idea, which is apparently why the current FCC is exploring precisely this option:
“Back in March, a marketing firm called All About the Message LLC specifically asked the telecom agency to issue a ruling on the legality of its “ringless voicemail” technology. In its petition, the company said it doesn’t cause “disruptions to a consumer’s life,” such as “dead air calls, calls interrupting consumers at inconvenient times, or delivery charges.” And it stressed that its technology isn’t even a “call” by conventional standards.”
In comments filed with the FCC (pdf), the RNC effectively warns the FCC not to stand in the way of its quest for ringless voicemail spam, and tries to argue that blocking such marketing is somehow an assault on the First Amendment:
Political speech is “at the very core of the First Amendment,” and subjecting direct-tovoicemail political messages to the TCPA would unnecessarily and improperly restrict that speech. It is a basic canon of constitutional law that the government may not restrict constitutionally protected speech unless “it chooses the least restrictive means to further [a compelling] interest. While the government may have an interest in protecting individuals from unwanted and intrusive phone calls, direct-to-voicemail messages are designed to be nonintrusive so as not to interrupt the recipient.
Again though, this ignores the fact that consumers themselves would still have to clean up their voicemail box of additional spam, and don’t want this added nuisance. The effort also runs in stark contrast to recent FCC efforts to actually reduce the level of marketing annoyance most wireless subscribers currently face. In its own filing with the FCC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tried to argue that existing consumer protections provided under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act are “archaic” and stifle the evolution of new, (annoying) technologies:
“The Commission cannot continue to sweep new technologies into this technologically-archaic statute. The language in Section 227(b) reflects a compromise by Congress. The Commission should stop undoing this compromise by expanding the reach of the TCPA into new technologies that Congress has yet to consider, weigh, and assess, so as to ascertain whether those technologies should be unlawful and to determine what
penalty should attach to their use.”
Whether you want to have a voicemail inbox magically filled with political missives, ads for mattresses and assorted other sales pitches apparently doesn’t even enter into the equation. If you’d like to share your thoughts with the FCC on this subject, you can find and comment on the particular proceeding in question, here.