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Businesses Find Little Relief From Costly Robocall Regulation

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks before calling for a vote during a meeting of the commissioners on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

Businesses can face millions in phone bills and lost productivity because of robocallers, one estimate found, and a new federal rule on these telemarketing techniques won’t offer much help.

The Federal Communication Commission announced Thursday sweeping rules to allow consumers and telephone companies to block robocalls.

“We love it that the FCC wants to protect consumers. Our concern is that we wish they would protect businesses,” John Busby, senior vice president Marchex, which markets "clean call technology," told TheBlaze.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks before calling for a vote during a meeting of the commissioners on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks before calling for a vote during a meeting of the commissioners on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo / Karen Bleier)

Some costs are quantifiable, but some are not, Busby said.

“There are 34 million toll-free numbers in existence and in the United States we estimate there are about a half-billion robocalls each year. These robocalls average two minutes, so it costs American businesses between $50 million and 100 million per year,” Busby said. “There is also a lot of productivity lost answering these calls. Could be a receptionist or could be the owner of a repair shop who thinks he’s answering the phone for a customer and it’s a robocall.”

More than 215,000 complaints about unwanted calls came into the FCC in 2014, more than any other category of complaints, according to the FCC.

The FCC announced Thursday that telecommunications companies can provide robocall-blocking technologies for customers; allow customers to revoke robocalls or robotexts even after initially giving permission and clarifies that a person whose name is in the contacts list of someone else is not providing “third party consent” to robocalls.

These were used as loopholes by telemarketing firms in following the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires prior express consent for non-emergency autodialed, prerecorded, or artificial voice calls. It is intended to close loopholes and provide further clarification. The new regulation is intended to clarify the law. The proposed rules go out now for public comment.

Further, the proposed FCC rule defines an “autodialer” as “any technology with the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers.” The audodialing capacity has been effective for companies selling a product, politicians and what Busby called “schemes.”

“The cost of autodialing is cheap and it’s more valuable to get people to hear your message than just sending a spam email,” Busby said.

One last thing…
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