The Tech News Blog

March 18, 2013

FCC Goes After Cell Phone Robocallers


The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down on two firms accused of making more than one million unauthorized robocalls to wireless phones.

The agency issued citations to Dialing Services and Richard Gilmore's Democratic Dialing, both of which made in excess of one million automated telemarketing calls to mobile phones without permission in 2011 and 2012.

"Consumers have increasingly been sounding the alarm on robocalls, rightly complaining about unwanted, intrusive cell phone calls and text messages from strangers, or worse yet computers," Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement. "These citations set the stage for significant monetary penalties if violations continue."

FCC rules and the Communications Act ban robocalls to wireless phones unless they are relaying emergency information or the recipient has given the caller permission to do so. None of the calls made by Dialing Services or Democratic Dialing were related to emergencies and none of the people the FCC polled had given either company permission to contact them.

The citations require both companies to stop the robocalls in the next 15 days, and include the proper identification in any authorized calls they make in the future. If they fail to comply, the firms could face up to $4.8 million in fines for this particular investigation. Overall, however, unauthorized robocalls could cost companies up to $16,000 per call.

October 19, 2012

FTC Offering $50,000 to Anyone Who Can Stop Robocalls


Can you make the robocalls stop? It might be worth $50,000.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday kicked off its FTC Robocall Challenge, which will offer $50,000 to the person or team who can come up with a way to stop annoying, robotic calls.

The effort is the first contest hosted on, an online platform that invites people to submit ideas for how best to solve pressing government challenges.

"The FTC is attacking illegal robocalls on all fronts, and one of the things that we can do as a government agency is to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "We think this will be an effective approach in the case of robocalls because the winner of our challenge will become a national hero."

The FTC will start accepting challenges on Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. Eastern and the submission period will run until Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. Winners will be announced in April.

Judges for the challenge are Steve Bellovin, FTC Chief Technologist, Henning Schulzrinne, Federal Communications Commission Chief Technologist, and Kara Swisher of All Things D. They will give a Best Overall Solution prize to an individual or team of fewer than 10 people based on the following criteria: does it work? (50 percent); can it be rolled out? (25 percent); and is it easy to use? (25 percent).

February 15, 2012

FCC Cracks Down on Telemarketing ‘Robocalls’

The Federal Communications Commission today approved rules that will make it more difficult for companies to use automated telemarketing calls, or robocalls.

"Consumers by the thousands have complained to us, letting us know that they remain unhappy with having their privacy invaded and their time wasted by these unwanted calls," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a Wednesday statement.

Specifically, the new rules will require companies to get written consent before calling you with automated offers. That can include an online form, though.

Current "do not call" telemarketing rules allow companies to contact people if they have an established business relationship - basically, if you've ever used the company's services before. The robocall rules, however, eliminate that prior relationship exemption for calls to residential wireline phones.