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FTC rules change: Get permission before prerecorded phone calls

November 17, 2010

Effective Dec. 1, sellers must obtain permission from consumers before dialing a telemarketing call that delivers a prerecorded message, according to changes announced by the Federal Trade Commission.

The changes do no affect calls that deliver purely "informational" prerecorded messages, such as notifying the recipient that he has a service appointment, or similar content. Such "informational" calls are not covered by the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule because they do not attempt to sell the called party any goods or services.

For calls that deliver prerecorded sales messages, the seller must obtain the recipient’s signed, written agreement to receive such calls.

At the outset of all prerecorded messages, sellers and telemarketers now must include an automated keypress or voice-activated interactive opt-out mechanism so that consumers can opt out as easily as they can from a live telemarketing call.

Calls placed by for-profit telemarketers that deliver prerecorded messages for charitable solicitations on behalf of nonprofits are exempt from the new ruling.

When it was introduced several years ago, the Telemarketing Sales Rule allowed for calls that deliver prerecorded messages to consumers with whom a seller had an established business relationship.