What Calls Are Illegal?
Typical Terms of Service (ToS) and Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) require that a customer’s calls be in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. These points do not constitute legal advice but may be helpful when providers and their customers confer with their own attorneys to ensure calls are legal:
- Some relevant regulations can be found at https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/64.1200
- Per (a)(1)(iii), calls using an artificial or prerecorded voice are not permitted to any telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service. This restriction applies regardless of the content of the message; the primary exception is if the caller has express written consent of the called party.
- Per (b)(1), the prerecorded telephone message shall “At the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call. If a business is responsible for initiating the call, the name under which the entity is registered to conduct business with the State Corporation Commission (or comparable regulatory authority) must be stated.”
- Per (b)(2), the message shall: “During or after the message, state clearly the telephone number (other than that of the autodialer or prerecorded message player that placed the call) of such business, other entity, or individual. … For telemarketing messages to residential telephone subscribers, such telephone number must permit any individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours for the duration of the telemarketing campaign.”
- Per (b)(3), “When the artificial or prerecorded voice telephone message is left on an answering machine or a voice mail service, such message must also provide a toll free number that enables the called person to call back at a later time and connect directly to the automated, interactive voice- and/or key press-activated opt-out mechanism and automatically record the called person’s number to the seller’s do-not-call list.”
- Per (c)(2), solicitations are not allowed to a “residential telephone subscriber who has registered his or her telephone number on the national do-not-call registry of persons who do not wish to receive telephone solicitations that is maintained by the Federal Government. Such do-not-call registrations must be honored indefinitely, or until the registration is cancelled by the consumer or the telephone number is removed by the database administrator.”
- Section (f)(8) gives an extensive definition of prior express written consent. A simple click-through on a web form is not sufficient. The caller must have extensive documentation including a legally valid (electronic) signature.
- Calls also must comply with rules specific to Caller-ID. See in particular https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/64.1601; section (e) dictates that “The telephone number so provided must permit any individual to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours.” It also requires that the name associated with the number reflect the identity of the telemarketer. Spoofing (Truth-in-Caller-ID) is covered here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/64.1604
- It is also a criminal offense to impersonate an officer or employee of the United States. Reference, for example: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/912
- Many states have their own regulations which apply when calling their residents.
Many providers have ToS and/or AUP provisions that are more restrictive than a simple requirement that calls are legal. Most providers do not permit calls that are annoying or harassing or that generate complaints, even if they are strictly legal.