FCC considers whether to allow ringless voicemail technology for telemarketers

Technology leaves voicemails without ringing phone

Call For Action: Ringless voicemails...

MADISON, Wis. - That dreaded voicemail sitting in your inbox might not have left a missed call on your phone.

That could be the new reality under a policy the Federal Communications Commission is considering. New technology allows telemarketers to send messages straight to voicemail without ringing a person’s phone first. Providers of the technology have petitioned the FCC, asking to forego regulation under the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits these kinds of calls without consumer consent.

"They're trying to get this approved under the guise of saying … (that) allowing a business to use this technology is a way to use direct marketing but not necessarily annoying you by calling you at inappropriate times,” said Steve Noll, a marketing instructor with Madison College.

There are concerns that your voicemail could be clogged by debt collectors, telemarketers or even scam calls, leaving messages without your consent.

"It's a new level of scam awareness that consumers are going to have to move to educate themselves on,” Noll said.

Wisconsin offers strong protections against this sort of thing, though. State laws dictate that any sort of solicitation call -- ringless or not -- can't go to the 4.5 million residents on the Do Not Call list, according to Frank Frassetto of DATCP.

"Wisconsin's telephone solicitation law is written broadly enough where our interpretation is it doesn't matter if it's a ringless call or not," Frassetto said. "So if this technology -- the ringless technology -- goes through, they shouldn't be getting calls anyway."

Frassetto added the Do Not Call list does not provide protection against scammers who might get ahold of this technology.

The FCC finished taking public comment on the matter in early June. There is no timeline for when the agency will make a final decision. 

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