Campaign season dials up high rate of robocalls

Published On: Sep 13 2012 09:04:29 AM EDT

By Rachael Mason, THELAW.TV

Chances are you've received a political campaign call this election season. If you live in a swing state, you could be getting several calls a day.

You might be thinking, “I’ve signed up for the National Do-Not-Call list, so why I am still getting these calls?” As it turns out, the Do-Not-Call regulations only cover telemarketing, so calls made by politicians and nonprofit organizations aren't subject to the same rules. Political calls to land lines are legal in most states, as long as they disclose the name and the contact info of the organization making the call.

"Political solicitations are not covered by the Telemarketing Sales Rule at all, since they are not included in its definition of “telemarketing," says the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees enforcement of the Do-Not-Call list.

However, robocalls -- those automatically dialed calls that play a recorded message once you answer the phone -- are a different matter. All robocalls made to cell phones, even from political campaigns, are illegal as part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. If you port your land line number to a mobile phone, robocallers get a 15-day grace period before they have to stop.

While you might not be able to hide from political calls on your landline, take solace knowing that all automated calls made by telemarketers are illegal, unless consumers give businesses explicit written permission to contact them. This rule was passed in September 2009 by the FTC.

Despite the laws against them and the opt-out lists, robocalls are on the rise. The technology used to make them -- including ways to produce fake caller ID information -- has become cheaper, reported the FTC.

"The FTC hears from American consumers every day about illegal robocalls and how intrusive they are," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a recent press release. "We're ratcheting up our efforts to stop this invasion of consumers' privacy."

The agency will host a summit on the robocall problem on Oct. 18, 2012 inWashington,D.C.

During election years, political robocalls, which are still allowable under the rules that govern telemarketing, have become particularly problematic. In 2010, 69 percent of registered voters polled received a pre-recorded political call in the days before the November elections, according to a campaign outreach study by the Pew Research Center. In comparison, only 33 percent got a call from a live person, like a campaign volunteer.

The National Political Do Not Contact Registry is a program formed to help fight unwanted political calls. People can sign up for the registry online at

In battleground states, people can get up to 15 robocalls a day from politicians, according to the Washington D.C.-based National Political Do Not Contact Registry.

If you're having trouble with robocalls from telemarketers, make a note about the nature of the call and the caller ID number that may have shown up on your phone and report the call to the FTC, by visiting or calling 1-877-382-4357. For more information, visit


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