Thankfully, Marketing Industry Plan For 'Ringless Voicemail' Dies a Quiet Death...For Now

from the it's-our-god-given-right-to-annoy-you dept

So we've been talking the past month about a push by the marketing industry (a company by the name of "All About The Message," specifically) to exempt "ringless voicemail" from existing robocalling and privacy rules. Ringless voicemail lets a company leave a marketing or political message in your inbox without your phone ringing. But such technology is currently prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) , which prohibits such marketing efforts without the "prior express consent of the called party."

In its petition to the FCC (pdf), All About the Message tried to claim that the existing consumer protections on this front were "archaic," ringless voicemails shouldn't be included because they're not technically "calls," and that exempting ringless voicemail from these rules provided an "important public purpose:"

"A direct to voicemail service platform is not covered by the TCPA, and the use of direct to voicemail insertion technology does not “make a call” to a wireless phone number as contemplated by Section 227, of Title 47 of the U.S. Code. What is more, consumers are not charged for delivery of the voicemail communications. Further, from a broader policy perspective, the use of direct to voicemail technology serves an important public purpose. The act of depositing a voicemail on a voicemail service without dialing a consumers' cellular telephone line does not result in the kind of disruptions to a consumer’s life—dead air calls, calls interrupting consumers at inconvenient times, or delivery charges to consumers -- which the TCPA was designed to prevent.

The effort quickly then received the full-throated support of the US Chamber of Commerce, American Financial Services Association and the Republican National Committee, which in a supporting filing of its own (pdf) tried to claim that blocking this annoying effort would violate the First Amendment:

"Telephone outreach campaigns are a core part of political activism. Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations – including direct-to-voicemail messages. The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest.

The problem: at no point did any of these companies or organizations spend much time thinking about what consumers actually wanted, and they sure as hell didn't want their voicemail inboxes being filled up with spam. As a result, when the news wires began to issue reports on the ringless voicemail plan, consumers were quick to complain to the FCC and political leaders about the effort. All About the Message has since submitted a very short letter to the FCC stating they were pulling their petition from consideration, putting this latest attempt to annoy the hell out of you and your family to bed... for now.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 3:34pm

    'Right to speak' does not equal 'Right to make others listen'

    The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest.

    The 'leaving messages isn't disrupting people's lives' issue was addressed and refuted the last time the issue came up, so I'll focus on this part.

    Being prohibited from leaving messages that people don't want is not a violation of constitutional rights. The right to free speech does not include the right to force people to listen to you, and if someone has made it clear that they aren't interested in what you have to say then a rule saying you're not allowed to leave messages they don't want is not 'burdening constitutionally protected political speech'.

    They can call and leave messages with people that have indicated that they are open to such, but leaving what amounts to political spam in the inboxes of people who have made clear their desire to avoid that sort of thing is something they do not, and should not, have a 'right' to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 3:52pm

    and here I thought I finally had a good, socially acceptable excuse to get rid of that annoying voicemail! That would just leave me looking for a good reason to get rid of that almost-as-annoying "call waiting" that I never asked for and don't want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2017 @ 3:52pm

    One of the things I hated about TracFone was constantly getting those ringless voicemail calls from TracFone's marketing dept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 4:11pm

    That's what you think

    Thankfully, Marketing Industry Plan For 'Ringless Voicemail' Dies a Quiet Death...For Now

    Maybe they also figured out how to pass "voteless" laws...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 6:38pm

    If they are so sure everyone would want these, why not make them opt in? Hell make all telemarketing opt in.

    They have the cash to pay for lobbying groups, why not to run a mail/web campaign to get permission? This would solve the whole but people want us to annoy them problem.

    I am disgusted with the push polling, "charities", political calls of all stripes. They made all of these loopholes, and color me shocked... people abuse them.

    Also it is shocking they tried to pretend that a sudden voicemail notification wouldn't disrupt people. There is an amazing scam now where they call and hang up after 1 ring. The missed call notification suckers some people into calling the number back to see who was calling... the number is routed through a system that charges more than we charge prisoners for calls.

    Its nifty they found a way to send voicemails without ringing our phones... shame they haven't put the same effort into ending Judy calling about my credit card or Microsoft telling me my computer warned them I had a virus or the IRS who need to be paid today or I go to jail...

    Want us to stop thinking your business is a shitty cesspool?
    Stop finding ways to get around the roadblocks people have setup to avoid you & end the loopholes that allow the worst of your kind to rip people off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 8:09pm

      Re:

      That's the thing: Would this even be remotely effective? Sure, marketing will make cash, but what about the clients for whom they are shilling? They have not taken a hard enough look at current forms of advertising and marketing to begin with. But yeah it is like spam, so cheap to flood.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 30 Jun 2017 @ 2:26am

        Re: Re:

        Whenever I get a robocall I drop it on principle. I wonder if it's possible to sue the people behind them for harassment? When it's persistently annoying, surely that counts as harassment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 28 Jun 2017 @ 8:13pm

    We need to put a stake in its heart. Then stomp on marketers with hidden numbers, nonsensical numbers, numbers that are local but obviously a front end to something inter/national, scam calls, and everyone violating the do not call lists.

    I was pleased when Do Not Call stopped lapsing, requiring you to sign up again. But it seems less effective all the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jun 2017 @ 8:15pm

    Let me start off for saying I've worked as a telemarketer before. My livelyhood used to depend on harassing people day in day out, and I would have given anything to have my job only consist of leaving messages on peoples voicemail, never to actually speak to them.

    HOWEVER...

    As much as this would have made >MY< life easier, there is only ONE way I would accept this.. and that was if we had a 'spam voicemail' service just like we have a 'spam e-mail' folder that is automatically cleared periodically, that doesn't charge consumers to access and listen to, and does not IN ANY WAY impact the normal voicemail inbox.

    I'm sorry, but I remember the days of tape answering machines. The ones with the TINY casettes you used to record messages from people. Has anyone else ever listened to a full casette of junk looking for the ONE IMPORTANT MESSAGE YOU'VE BEEN EXPECTING only for it to cut off halfway through because the tape ran out? OMG no!

    I'm sorry, but the idea is still very inconveniencing. ESPECIALLY for people who need to use their voicemail for work or important calls.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2017 @ 1:08am

    Marketing is the industry that taxes everything that you buy so that they can ruin you experience of living by bombarding you with messages that you do not want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2017 @ 4:05am

    In the words of David Canzi

    "All children should be aptitude-tested at an early age and, if their main or only aptitude is for marketing, drowned."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2017 @ 4:34am

    the current rules are better than the ones that were coming

    I'm guessing they pulled their petition because they would rather keep operating with the current rules rather than have a specific rule created for or against ringless voicemail.

    I bet their volume of ringless voicemails next month is the same or higher than the volume last month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2017 @ 6:36am

    I would have no problem with ringless voicemail

    As long as my phone indicates which ones came in via ringless calls.

    Then I could easily change the "ringless voicemail" into a "deleted voicemail"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 29 Jun 2017 @ 6:40am

    Voicemail only

    I get so many calls I don't want from "charities", political, telemarketing and scam that I never answer the phone unless I recognize your number on caller ID. If it's important they'll leave a message. If I start getting ringless spam I will dig out my old fashioned answering machine and use that. If these assholes are ever exempted from the few rules we have to protect us the answering machine market will be resurrected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Jun 2017 @ 6:40am

    I was wondering who uses such services these days. I deactivated them on all the lines I have except for one that kept saying it can't be done (despite my assertions that other two companies did for a fixed line and a mobile one). The only sad part is that annoying voicemail notification that will remain there forever (up to the time I don't need that carrier anymore and ditch them).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jun 2017 @ 12:05pm

    "all about the message" and that message is the shareholders of "all about the message" scamming the elderly of as much cold hard cash as they can before fleeing to a country without an extradition treaty with the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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