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Robocalls disconnected
Law bans some automated pitches
A new law will stop some automated calls. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Consumers who receive unwanted, prerecorded telemarketing calls can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling (888) 382-1222 or visiting
It won’t stop debt collectors or politicians, but a new law puts a stop to some prerecorded telemarketing calls.

The Federal Trade Commission’s new rule, which takes effect Tuesday, blocks automated calls, known as robocalls, unless the telemarketer has received written permission from a consumer.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement that consumers “made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year.”

“If consumers think they’re being harassed by robocallers, they need to let us know, and we will go after them,” he said.

Companies face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

The new law does not apply to some types of robocalls, including those from politicians, telephone carriers and most charitable organizations.

Informational recordings are also allowed, including those about delayed airline flights, delivery times for purchased items or messages from school systems.

Jennifer Caracciolo, Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman, said automated calls have made it possible to reach parents systemwide during an emergency or for special information such as photo days and upcoming holidays.

Before, parents were notified by their child’s teacher.

“It is essential that we have it,” she said. “This can be made with one message to thousands of parents at one time at just the click of a button.”

The ban provides relief to those with a so-called land line, or home phone, while an existing rule protects cell phone users.

Paul Chambers, AT&T spokesman, said about 20 percent of Georgians use wireless phones exclusively, and 42 percent of Americans consider their wireless phone their primary phone.

“As wireless networks have improved, that obviously has improved the coverage in making wireless more attractive,” he said. “There are 270 million wireless devices in America.”

Banks are excused from the new rule, but that won’t change the approach at Community Business Bank, which doesn’t make robocalls.

“We just believe that’s the whole point and basis on which this bank was built,” said Carter Barrett, the bank’s president and chief executive officer.

“We’re going to serve our clients on a one-on-one basis, and we don’t believe in automated phone calls. That sort of thing lacks the personal touch that we like to give.”

Barrett said it’s unlikely other community banks would make automated calls for the same reason.

Even larger corporations have been steering clear of robocalls.

Spokesman Justin Tomczak said the business model for State Farm, the state’s largest insurer, is “built upon the agent-policy holder personal relationship.”

“As such, we do not use robocalls for business solicitation,” he said.

The rule, Leibowitz said, targets “prerecorded pitches, senseless solicitations and malicious marketing.”

It’s a rule Forsyth resident Margie Reeves said is “really good, because what they do is call at mealtime or later in the night.”

“I don’t get angry, I just let it go,” she said. “I guess it’s just the part of me that just wants to see what they are really saying. I’ll just see what they’re really selling.

“But the feeling I have about that is I didn’t choose for you to call me to purchase something. I’ll make the decision when I want to, but not over the telephone.”

Reeves said she’s had calls as late as 9:30 p.m. She has never bought anything from an automated telemarketer, but thinks “sometimes older people will.”

“They get caught up in the moment,” she said. “But ... I’m not going to give my credit card to someone over the phone that I don’t know.”