Is it legal for political campaigns to call your cellphone?

**UPDATE 10/31/12: If you receive a SPAM text message, report it by following these simple steps. Users will not be charged for reporting SPAM text messages.

  1. Forward the SPAM text message to SPAM (7726)
  2. You will then receive a text asking for the phone number that the text message was sent from; text that number back
  3. You will then receive a “thank you” text. No additional action is necessary.

With federal, state and local elections around the corner, we thought it’d be a good time to remind campaigns and consumers about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991PDF Document(TCPA). A couple of weeks ago, CTIA’s President and CEO Steve Largent sent a letter to urge the FCC to protect wireless consumers from those who violate the TCPA.

Passed in 1991 by Congress, the TCPA addresses consumer concerns about telemarketing calls. The TCPA covers sending unsolicited advertisements to fax machines, the use of automated dialers, artificial and recorded voice messages and sending text messages to wireless phones. The Act is designed to protect consumers from the intrusion of unwanted solicitations, in addition to the expense, which can sometimes be associated with such solicitations.

Telemarketers may not call during certain hours, and they may not use auto dialers and recorded messages to call numbers which will result in charges to the consumer. There are, of course, some exemptions to the TCPA. These exceptions permit businesses to make calls to customers with whom there is an established relationship, as well as calls made on behalf of a non-profit organization, or for non-commercial purposes, which allows pollsters and political campaigns to make such calls.

Under the TCPA, campaign volunteers may call voters on their landline or wireless phones. But when a campaign uses an auto dialer to leave a “robocall” (precorded message), calls to wireless phones are prohibited.  In short, it is:

  • legal for a campaign to call voters on their landline phones using an auto dialer to leave a robocall without the “prior express consent of the called party [voter, for example].”
  • illegal for a campaign to contact voters using to use auto dialers and robocalls to their cellphones without prior express consent (per 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii)PDF Document).

The same rules apply to text messages.  It is:

  • legal for campaign workers to send texts to voters’ cellphones.
  • illegal (per 47 U.S.C. 227(b)(1)(A)(iii)PDF Document) to have a campaign use an auto dialer to send texts to voters’ cellphones without prior express consent.

To learn more about TCPA, please visit the FCC’s websites on telemarketing and SPAM texts.

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