A marketing method some auto dealers use is now illegal without consumers’ consent, the Federal Communications Commission has ruled.
The FCC decided that “ringless” voicemails fall under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 because they amount to calls by “an artificial or prerecorded voice.”
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that, “no one wants to miss important calls from family and friends because these garbage messages fill up their in-box.”
Such “calls” go straight to the receiver’s voicemail with no telephone ring beforehand and therefore allow no way for the receiver to intercept them. Rosenworcel called them “unbelievably annoying.”
The TCPA was enacted to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls and from nonemergency calls to their wireless telephones using automatic dialing systems or artificial or prerecorded voices unless the receiver grants prior express consent.
The FCC ruled that ringless voicemails amount to robocalls and are therefore covered by the act. It has authority to enforce the rule, or consumers can sue over violations.
The agency said it’s gotten dozens of consumer complaints each year about ringless voicemails.
Some auto dealers, along with other businesses and political campaigns, have used such calls for marketing purposes, and some dealership groups have settled lawsuits over them, including Moss Bros. Auto Group.