The FCC clarified that callers must receive a consumer’s consent before delivering “ringless voicemail,” a message left in someone’s mailbox without ringing their cell phone. The full Commission’s decision was unanimous and the ruling is now in effect.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects consumers from unwanted robocalls. It prohibits making any non-emergency call using an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice to a wireless telephone number without the prior consent of the person who’s called.
With its decision, the Commission makes it clear that ringless voicemail is a type of robocall. That means it’s illegal if the caller did not have the consumer’s prior permission. The FCC can enforce violations of the law or the consumer can sue in court.
“Imagine finding robocallers leaving junk voicemails on your phone without it ever having rung. It’s annoying and it’s happening to too many of us,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We’re taking action to ensure these deceptive practices don’t find a way around our robocall rules and into consumers’ inboxes.”
In its decision, the agency denied a petition from All About the Message, LLC, which asked the Commission to find that delivery of a message directly to a consumer’s cell phone voicemail is not protected by the TCPA. The FCC sought public comment on the request. The agency said it received an “overwhelming” negative reaction from the public.
The FCC acted after All About the Message and two other similar petitions sought to withdraw their requests for clarification. The agency also receives dozens of consumer complaints annually related to ringless voicemail.