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Ask Laz: Late-night political robocalls: Are these things legal?

Marsha says she knows political robocalls aren’t covered by the Do Not Call registry. But does that mean they can call any time they like?

Marsha says she and her husband recently were “startled and jolted out of bed” by the phone ringing just before midnight. It turned out to be a robocall for a political survey.

I know how Marsha feels. I’ve received similar calls late at night and have trudged back to bed, heart pounding, feeling pretty sure the Founding Fathers didn’t have this sort of thing in mind.

ASK LAZ: Smart answers to consumer questions

According to the Federal Trade Commission, political calls, surveys and charities aren’t part of the Do Not Call registry because they’re not technically calls from telemarketers, though sometimes it doesn’t feel as if there’s much difference.

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A consumer’s prior consent is required for all non-emergency robocalls to cellphones, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But the only requirement for political robocalls to a landline is that the source of the call be identified at the outset of the message.

In California, though, the rules are more strict. The law says that “no person shall operate an automatic dialing-announcing device in this state to place a call that is received by a telephone in this state during the hours between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.”

Political campaigns and survey takers should know better than to call people at late -- or early -- hours, but some apparently believe they stand a better chance of getting their message across if they can leave word on someone’s answering machine.

And the odds of that improve dramatically if you call at a time when many people are reluctant to leave the warmth and safety of their bed.

Californians can report such calls to the state Public Utilities Commission.

Another thing to consider is a free service called Nomorobo. All of your calls will go through Nomorobo before reaching your home. If the company’s computers tag one as a robocall, it won’t get through.

Nomorobo doesn’t work with all phone companies, so contact yours and see if they’ll allow you a little late-night peace of mind.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.


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