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What's next in the fight against those annoying robo-calls

Consumers are applauding a move by the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on automated phone calls from telemarketers.

"It's about time," said Bob Dennis, 67, in an email to The Times. "Maybe now I can enjoy some silence in my golden years."

New rules unanimously approved Wednesday by the FCC's three members place strict limits on unwanted autodialed or prerecorded calls, including a requirement that telemarketers obtain written permission from consumers before making the calls.

The question now is when the regulations will be implemented. From the FCC they go to the White House where they need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. Once that's done, they will be published in the Federal Register, putting the rules into effect. Typically that process takes two to six months.

Under the rules, a telemarketer must obtain written consent, which can be given online, before placing robo-calls to a consumer.

Telemarketers also must provide an automated opt-out mechanism during each robo-call so that consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.

The FCC also eliminated the "established business relationship" exception, which had allowed robo-calls to be placed to the land-line home phones of consumers with "prior or existing" associations with companies represented by telemarketers.

And the agency strictly limited the number of abandoned or so-called dead-air calls — in which consumers answer their phones and hear nothing — that telemarketers can make.

The rules also apply to text messages.

On Thursday, the Direct Marketing Assn., a trade group that represent telemarketers, said it was pleased with the FCC rules because they were consistent with telemarketing standards passed by the Federal Trade Commission. 

"It hurts all marketers when you have a significant number of companies and individuals who aren't following the law," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs for the trade group. "It eliminates trust."

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