FCC Targets ‘Ringless Voicemail’ Robocalls in Latest Regulation

According to a press release issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the new proposal would require callers to obtain a consumer’s consent before delivering a “ringless voicemail,” a message left in their mailbox without ringing their cell phone. Wednesday’s announcement responds to a petition filed in 2017 by All About the Message (AATM), a ringless voicemail provider that sought to duck Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulation.

In particular, AATM requested that the FCC declare that the delivery of a voice message directly to a voicemail box does not constitute a call subject to the prohibitions on the use of an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) or an artificial or pre-recorded voice under the TCPA. After soliciting comment, the FCC is set to deny that request.

Instead, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s proposal would find that ringless voicemails are, in fact, TCPA “calls” that require individuals’ prior consent. “Ringless voicemail can be annoying, invasive, and can lead to fraud like other robocalls—so it should face the same consumer protection rules,” the chairwoman said in a statement.

If adopted by vote of the four-person Commission, the proposed declaratory ruling and order would expand TCPA regulation, a law which aims to shield consumers from unwanted robocalls and prohibits non-emergency calls to cell phones made using an ATDS or an artificial or pre-recorded voice without the dialed party’s consent.

As previously reported, and as described by the agency itself, the FCC has taken numerous steps to curtail the barrage of robocalls Americans face on a daily basis including the implementation of new technological protocols and enforcement actions. Recently, a unified coalition of all state attorneys general asked the FCC to bump up protections against foreign robocallers.