I get that most of the individuals in this country use their mobile phones as their primary form of communication. Still, households all over this nation still have landline telephones. The American family considers their home a sanctuary. To continue its treatment as such, many subscribers to home phone service have signed their numbers up with the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry in prior years. Yet every time an election rolls around this is permeated by calls from campaign offices disrespecting their privacy and occasionally turning them off to voting period. The use of auto dialers (robocalls) is illegal right? Yes they are, but not in this case.
The reason can be found in the laws of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Exemptions to the use of calls using prerecorded messages (ie. campaign platforms and mudslinging) are given to:
- emergency calls needed to ensure the consumer’s health and safety
- calls for which you have given prior express consent (already done business with company)
- non-commercial calls
- calls that don’t include or introduce any unsolicited advertisements or constitute telephone solicitations
- calls by, or on behalf of, tax-exempt non-profit organizations
The do-not-call list's political exemption applies to candidates, ballot measures, and to political parties soliciting donations. Mitchell Katz of the FTC, made a case for political solicitations being free-speech. "What I would say is, just hang in there," Katz said. "It's technically speech as part of the political process - and that's what makes us a democracy...The calls, I can guarantee you, will dramatically drop off the day after the election."
The TCPA does however require all telephone calls using pre-recorded messages to identify who is initiating the calls and include a telephone number to reach them. The lobbying group needs to identify themselves. Who they are representing is not good enough. If you get a call from a prerecorded auto dialer and the group who originated the message does not state who they are, assuming you can find who they are, you could rake in $500 to $1500 per offense on their blunder.
This year there has been a lot of hype about anonymous contributions being made to campaigns. And as election day approaches, the Attorney General’s Office is cracking down on automated calls that do not comply with federal law.
DO NOT CALL THE NUMBER BACK TO FIND OUT ITS OWNER.
In some cases, by calling the number back you could be hit with charges. They are required by law to leave the number for the party making the call in the automated message. Seedy organizations were leaving 900 numbers as their contacts. These would allow them to not only charge those who called, but charge them with fees exceeding local or long distance transmissions. Again, such a violation would merit a court-ordered injunction and up to a $1500.
Citizens for Civil Disclosure, Stop Political Robocalls
The Sacramento Bee, Stop political robocalls? Sorry -- but no
Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force