A group of Democrats is asking the FCC to prevent robocalls telemarketers and political candidates from being able to use ringless voicemails to deliver their messages to consumers.
The use of ringless voicemails is a controversial technique, because it allows callers to deliver voicemails directly to consumers without actually ringing their phones. Rather than using the carriers’ telephone networks, the technique uses data lines to deliver the messages to the voicemail box sitting on a provider’s server. In a petition filed last month, a company called All About the Message asked the FCC to rule that ringless voicemails aren’t calls, enabling the company and others to use autodialers to deliver the messages. Right now, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act prevents the use of autodialers for these kinds of commercial calls.
The Republican National Committee filed comments with the FCC in support of the petition, saying that it was an important free speech case. The FCC’s denial of the petition “would have serious consequences for the First Amendment rights of those engaged in political communication via telephone,” the RNC said in its comments. Now, a group of Senate Democrats is countering with a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to deny the petition, saying the ringless voicemails are “unwanted, invasive, and abusive”.
“Should this petition be granted, telemarketers, debt collectors, and other callers could bombard Americans with unwanted voicemails, leaving consumers with no way to block or stop these intrusive messages,” the letter says. Exempting ringless voicemails from the TCPA’s autodialer protections would allow callers to overwhelm consumers with with ringless voicemail messages without first obtaining consumer consent.
“Whether by robocall, by robotext, or by ringless voicemail, consumers should have meaningful control over who can and cannot contact their mobile device.”
Signed by 11 Senators, including Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden, and Al Franken, the letter asks Pai to reject the petition on the grounds that it goes against the original goals of the TCPA.