Ringless Voicemail Becomes Subject of Hot Debate


Ringless Voicemail Becomes Subject of Hot Debate

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 19, 2018

Marketers have a new new tactic to reach consumers. It’s called ringless voicemail, and it enables companies and other organizations to leave people voicemail messages without first actually ringing their phones.

Some parties (including the Republican one) see this as a way to support business, and even freedom of speech. They say ringless voicemail does all that without being disruptive like robocalls.

Others, however, consider ringless voicemail a form of spam. It’s yet another unwanted imposition in consumers’ lives, they note. They say it’s the latest way businesses are trying to get around consumer protection regulations such as the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act.

The Federal Communications Commission has been hearing from both sides of this debate recently.

In May, the Republican National Committee sent the FCC (News - Alert) a letter urging the commission to support a petition from a Wyoming company called All About The Message that would put ringless voicemail outside the purview of robocalling restrictions. Those regulations prevent businesses from calling cell phones without first getting the permission of the owners of those cell phones to do so.

The petition reads, in part: “All About the Message LLC respectfully requests the Federal Communications Commission declare that the delivery of a voice message directly to a voicemail box does not constitute a call that is subject to the prohibitions on the use of an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice that are set forth in the Telephone  Consumer Protection Act….”

In June the attorneys general of Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York submitted a joint letter urging the FCC to ban telemarketers from using ringless voicemail.

Here’s an excerpt from that letter: “Ringless voicemail is likely to be more intrusive, not less, because it can bypass some of the most common call blocking applications used by wireless subscribers. Ringless voicemail bypasses important lines of defense for consumers and threatens the efficacy of call blocking applications which can protect consumers from scams and unlawful calls.”

In a separate recent communication to the FCC, someone named Bruce Campbell of Lincoln, Mass., offered the following viewpoint: “I am incredulous that ‘ringless’ voicemails are being proposed; they should be illegal, just like all other spam calls.

“They aren’t ringless,” Campbell adds. “My phone rings to notify me when a voicemail comes in, and I have to take action to silence that  notification. But ‘ringless’ is twice as bad, because, with a normal phone call, I can see who left the message and decide whether to listen or delete. With the proposal, I would have to listen first. Please don’t do this!”

It turns out they didn’t. The All About the Message petition was withdrawn – even before the FCC had a chance to rule on it – in light of what Ars Technica described as “heavy opposition.” However, Ars Technica notes that this is not the first time       companies have pushed for special treatment for ringless voicemail or gotten in  trouble for delivering it, and it likely won’t be the last we hear about rules and challenges related to ringless voicemail. 

Edited by Erik Linask
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