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Is it legal for political campaigns to call your cellphone?

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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.

14 Responses to “Is it legal for political campaigns to call your cellphone?” Leave a reply ›

  • avatar

    This is fine, but with the ability to spoof what shows up as name and number in caller id (not sure why THIS is not illegal...), and the fact that when I talk to a person and ask them why are they violating my "do not call list" requests they hang up, I do not see how to report violations of this policy. Between "last chance to reduce my credit card interest rates" and political calls, my landline and cell phone get 2-3 unwanted calls a day.

  • avatar

    Hi Bill - Yes, CTIA agrees with you that spoofing should be illegal. In 2010, there were some bills in Congress that would have made this practice illegal. The House passed one of them, but it never passed the Senate. We would recommend you contact your elected officials to let them know you support making spoofing illegal. We explain more in this blog post: http://blog.ctia.org/...o-if-youre-a-victim-of-spoofing/

    As far as the hang ups, we'd recommend taking a look at the FCC's guide on unwanted telemarker calls: http://www.fcc.gov/...unwanted-telephone-marketing-calls

    According to the FCC's guide: "While registering home phone numbers on the national Do-Not-Call list prohibits telephone solicitations, this action does not make prank or harassing calls unlawful. For problems with such calls, contact local law enforcement agencies."

    They also note that some states have their own do-not-call lists and suggests you contact your state’s public service commission or consumer protection office. For information on your state public service commission, please visit: http://www.naruc.org/commissions.cfm

    I hope this helps. Thanks for your comment.

  • avatar

    Thank you for reviewing what is not allowed by law, and why. Let's hope that the good actors do the right thing and the bad actors are punished, or better yet deterred from bad behavior. We should all inform consumers that the FCC accepts complaints as they describe on http://www.fcc.gov/...m-unwanted-text-messages-and-email.

    I would also like to hear what CTIA promotes as good and proper political use of mobile phones.

  • avatar

    The one thing to keep in mind. Many many consumers put their cell phone number as their contact number when they register to vote. The consumer has now listed that number to be called whether cell phone or land line.

    Those numbers are public domain and may be called with an auto dailer because you listed it on the registration. The RNC uses Voter Vault, the DNC use Vote Builder. Both are just the list of every county in Americas voter roles.

    • avatar

      I work for an Elections Office. My cell phone is NOT on my voter registration and I do not include any voters telephone numbers for public record. but I am still receiving calls from only democratic candidates even though I am unaffiliated. This started in late April. How did they obtain these numbers????

      • avatar

        Crystal i am having the same problem. I only give my cell number to my family/ a couple friends and my children's school. I DO NOT use it anywhere else. I use our home phone. I'm usually nice to these people but i'm so mad right now. They called me 3 times in a row. Just kept calling, no message. Between 7pm -8pm. I tried calling back. Nothing. Just a recorded message with an apology if it was bothering me. Then they called again and i answered for once. Asked how did they get my number? They just say i'm a registered voter and get snippy with me about my tone. Hello you called my house during dinner....3 times remember. Here is the thing i KNOW i did NOT list my cell number on my voter registry. Never have. Never will. But someone got it somehow. Cell phone company sell it??! Connect it through my address?! Thanks for any input. I want it to stop. Alsothey called my husband's cell phone at the same time. Several times in a row. He uses his cell number for everything though. They never called our home number. Which we list on EVERYTHING. Odd. Thanks! I apologize for the rant.

  • avatar

    Another thing they should make illegal is hanging up when they get my voicemail and repeating over and over. One of the campaigns has been doing this 6 times/day which is interfering with my work.

    I plan to answer the call one time to find out which campaign, and then inform that campaign that their obnoxious tactic convinced me to vote for their opponent.

    • avatar

      Sadly that doesn't work due to the way campaigns do their databases.

      I was database manager for one of the major parties in 2010 and they PRINTED (no kidding - hard copy, dead trees!) their lists TWO WEEKS before they were used!

  • avatar

    I use the ooma.com Internet based phone service and have not recieved a SINGLE "robo-call", despite being very active politically!

    OOMA.COM has a "community filter" and a "personal filter" if several people block a number on their "persona; fileter" then it gets added to the "comunity filter". Gues how long "robo-callers" work :-)

    WHY DOES EVERY PHONE PROVIDER NOT GIVE THIS SERVCE???

  • avatar

    I think it's WRONG that these politicians has the right to call your home anytime it suits their fancy. Not caring whether they are disturbing the sick, or if someone may be working the late shift and could be getting some sleep before they go to work. What happened to our rights? The right for peace and quite in our own homes? This is wrong. I asked one of the campaign office how would they feel if they received calls at their home off and on a daily basis throughout the day? I was told it would not be appreciated. Then why do we have to put up with it? Whomever gave the politician's the right to make these calls are wrong on all levels. Evidently they did not take into account the number of politicians that would be calling, and more than likely this would be disturbing to we, the recipients of these calls. I have never been so disappointed in the politicians, and I'm only referring to the ones who are making these calls. There should have been restrictions, such as: one call only, and they are allowed to leave a message on the recipient. They are not allowed to call back after leaving that message.
    I hope before the next election some changes will be made, I don't want to go through this again.

  • avatar

    Excuse me, I get angry when speaking of this matter, in my last post it should have read, they should only be allowed to leave one message on the recipient answering machine, or voice mail. They should not be allowed to call back.

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