A robocall is a phone call originated by a computer or autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message. Robocalls frequently involve political campaigns or telemarketing campaigns.
Because no person is at the other end of the phone conversation, the customer feels that he is talking to a robot, hence the name "robocall". Robocalls and other unsolicited phone calls were more common until Congress passed a law establishing a "Do Not Call List." Under the law, a phone customer could add his phone number to a special register, and telemarketers must check that list before making calls. At first, a phone number was listed on the do not call list for a fixed period of time, but Congress amended the law in 2007, so that listings on the do-not-call registry do not expire. Telemarketers must pay a fee of $54 per area code per year for access to the Do Not Call List." political organizations, charities, or telephone surveyors are allowed to call phones on the Do Not Call list. Businesses may call people on the Do Not Call List if they have an established business relationship with them or if they have a written consent from the person. Some telemarketers trick people into giving consent by printing up sweepstakes entry forms with the written consent as a part of the fine print on the entry form.
On November 1, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission got a federal court order halting operations at five telemarketing firms that made robocalls with a recording claiming to be "Rachel from Cardholder Services." These companies claimed to be able to reduce the interest rate paid by customers on their credit card balances if the customer would pay them an up front fee. The FTC said that such fees are illegal. Jon Leibowitz, Chair of the FTC, said "'Rachel from Cardholder Services' is public enemy No. 1."
- Do Not Call Registrations Permanent and Fees Telemarketers Pay to Access Registry Set. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved on November 6, 2012.
- Information for Business. Retrieved on November 6, 2012.
- "Court disconnects five robo-call firms", Washington Post, November 2, 2012, p. A10.