NEWS1 September 2009

Research exempt from Federal Trade Commission’s robocall ban

Legal North America

US— The Federal Trade Commission has banned telemarketing ‘robocalls’ from today - but market research calls are exempt.

The FTC’s new rules make it illegal for companies to make automated sales calls unless they have written consent from the person receiving the call. But other calls – including surveys, informational calls such as flight cancellation alerts and calls from politicians and charities – are exempt.

Violators will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call, the FTC said.

The new requirement is part of amendments to the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, which already required companies to provide an opt-out mechanism on automated calls and prohibited telemarketers from calling customers on its Do Not Call registry.

Such rules seem to be a mixed blessing for telephone researchers. Industry representatives have welcomed them on the grounds that they reinforce the distinction between research and telemarketing, but some commentators have more recently blamed do-not-call lists for declining response rates in telephone research, claiming that most people don’t distinguish between surveys and other unwanted calls, and resent receiving them.