The FCC is warning consumers, as well as marketers, that robotexts sent by autodialers to mobile phones are illegal and the commission says it will be cracking down on the practice.
Robotexts are the younger cousin of the robocalls that have been plaguing consumers and businesses for a long time. Whereas robocalls typically are made by autodialers and may have a real person or a recording on the other end, robotexts are sent out en masse by autodialers and usually are delivering ad messages or sometimes phishing links. The texting issue is a much newer problem than robocalls, but the FCC is telling consumers and marketers both that the law and the commission treat robotexts the same way as calls.
“The FCC has stated that the restrictions on making autodialed calls to cell phones encompass both voice calls and texts. Accordingly, text messages sent to cell phones using any automatic telephone dialing system are subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991,” the commission said in an advisory.
“The FCC’s corresponding rules6 restrict the use of prerecorded-voice calls and automatic telephone dialing systems, including those that deliver robotexts.7 The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau will rigorously enforce the important consumer protections in the TCPA and our corresponding rules.”
Aside from the annoyance factor, the main problem with robotexts is that they often cost recipients money. Depending upon their cell plan, many consumers are charged for texts they receive. The FCC said that unless consumers have given prior written consent, almost all commercial robotexts are illegal. The exceptions are texts from nonprofits and some health-care related messages. The sender is responsible for being able to prove that it has prior consent for sending the texts.
“Those contending that they have prior express consent to make robotexts to mobile devices have the burden of proving that they obtained such consent. This includes text messages from text messaging apps and Internet-to-phone text messaging where the technology meets the statutory definition of an autodialer. The fact that a consumer’s wireless number is in the contact list of another person’s wireless phone does not, by itself, demonstrate consent to receive robotexts,” the FCC advisory says.