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FCC Finally Nuking Annoying "Robocalls" With New Rules

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is now cracking down on what it calls "robocalls," those annoying automated phone calls that typically feature a recorded message telling consumers to "wait for a representative," "you won a free trip" or something similar immediately after they've answered the phone. Thanks to new rules approved by the FCC, telemarketers are now required to obtain written consent before placing another robocall.

According to the FCC, the "written consent" doesn't necessarily mean a hand-written signature -- a digital version will work just fine. The new rules also eliminate a loophole that allowed telemarketers to place robocalls if they had an "established business relationship" with the consumer. Previously U.S. residents had to sign up for a national do-not-call list to be exempt from this loophole.

On Wednesday the FCC stated that the new rules won't apply to information robocalls like automated messages from schools or flight changes. But the rules do require telemarketers to provide an automated opt-out mechanism during each robocall so that consumers can revoke their consent. If the consumer does choose to opt-out, telemarketers must add them to their do-not-call list.

"Robocalls invade consumers' privacy, and can, in the case of calls to wireless numbers, use up their minutes," the FCC said on Wednesday. "The Order adopted today helps put an end to these intrusions by empowering consumers with increased rights under the FCC’s telemarketing rules. The new rules reduce regulatory uncertainty with minimal burden on industry and maximize consistency with those of the Federal Trade Commission."

"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 statement.

So how long will it take telemarketers to find a loophole around this new set of rules?