Republican National Committee and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Want to Allow Robocalls that Go Straight to Voicemail

The two organizations have asked the FCC too let telemarketers use this type of robocall

Republican National Committee and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Want to Allow Robocalls that Go Straight to Voicemail
Image: Pixabay
May 26, 2017

A new technology would enable telemarketers to send robocall messages straight to your phone's voicemail without actually calling the phone, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Republican National Committee (RNC) want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to let telemarketers use it.

As Consumerist reports, a law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) restricts how prerecorded and autodialed calls made to wireless phones can be used. They are allowed only during emergencies and in cases in which the recipient of the call has given his or her consent for it beforehand.

Now, a company known as All About The Message has come up with technology enabling callers to send messages straight to someone's voicemail without actually calling their phone. The company has petitioned the FCC and requested that the agency either declare such messages to be outside of the TCPA's purview or grant the company a waiver that would let it send these messages without suffering the penalties of the law.

Businesses and politicians alike are supporting the petition, particularly the RNC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber argues that the new technology is different from the random number or sequential number dialers that the TCPA was originally meant to restrict when it was passed in 1991. It says that the FCC "cannot continue to sweep new technologies into this technologically-archaic statute," but it then contradicts itself by claiming that, if Congress wants to bar this technology, it should do so with a law.

Given the current Republican supermajority in Congress, however, it seems unlikely that such a law will be passed any time soon. The RNC cited the First Amendment in its comments to the FCC in support of the new technology: "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 12 consumer advocacy groups oppose the petition. Filing a joint comment, the groups say that such messages would be "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," the groups claim. "Unlike their ability to limit calls and texts, consumers have no way to limit, restrict or block unwanted voicemail messages from particular callers."