Aside from being a common annoyance, automated telemarketing calls featuring a recorded sales pitch (sometimes known as "robocalls") are often illegal, especially if they involve telemarketing fraud. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made it illegal to use prerecorded telemarketing calls unless the telemarketer has the express written permission of the person called.
State Laws on Automated Telemarketing
There are many state laws regulating robocalls. Depending on the state, a telemarketer may need to get a license, call only at certain hours, make certain disclosures, and/or ask for permission to continue. For example, in California, a live person must identify the source of the call, and the recipient of the call must then consent to hear the recorded message, and the call must be disconnected when the recorded pitch ends.
The Do Not Call Registry
Consumers can block many commercial telemarketing calls by registering with the National Do Not Call List. The phone numbers on that list including land lines and cell phones cannot be called by any commercial telemarketer. Telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling consumers after they register on this list. This law carries with it fines of up to $11,000 per violation.
Not all laws that apply to telemarketers apply to political calls, such as the Do Not Call Registry. Generally, there are fewer regulations on calls made for political candidates, or other non-profit organizations.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you believe that the annoying phone calls you recieve have reached the level of harassment, you should contact the police. Depending on the circumstances, a criminal attorney may review the case.