So we've been talking the past month about a push by the marketing industry (a company by the name of "All About The Message," specifically) to exempt "ringless voicemail" from existing robocalling and privacy rules. Ringless voicemail lets a company leave a marketing or political message in your inbox without your phone ringing. But such technology is currently prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) , which prohibits such marketing efforts without the "prior express consent of the called party."
In its petition to the FCC (pdf), All About the Message tried to claim that the existing consumer protections on this front were "archaic," ringless voicemails shouldn't be included because they're not technically "calls," and that exempting ringless voicemail from these rules provided an "important public purpose:"
"A direct to voicemail service platform is not covered by the TCPA, and the use of direct to voicemail insertion technology does not “make a call” to a wireless phone number as contemplated by Section 227, of Title 47 of the U.S. Code. What is more, consumers are not charged for delivery of the voicemail communications. Further, from a broader policy perspective, the use of direct to voicemail technology serves an important public purpose. The act of depositing a voicemail on a voicemail service without dialing a consumers' cellular telephone line does not result in the kind of disruptions to a consumer’s life—dead air calls, calls interrupting consumers at inconvenient times, or delivery charges to consumers -- which the TCPA was designed to prevent.
The effort quickly then received the full-throated support of the US Chamber of Commerce, American Financial Services Association and the Republican National Committee, which in a supporting filing of its own (pdf) tried to claim that blocking this annoying effort would violate the First Amendment:
"Telephone outreach campaigns are a core part of political activism. Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations – including direct-to-voicemail messages. The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest.
The problem: at no point did any of these companies or organizations spend much time thinking about what consumers actually wanted, and they sure as hell didn't want their voicemail inboxes being filled up with spam. As a result, when the news wires began to issue reports on the ringless voicemail plan, consumers were quick to complain to the FCC and political leaders about the effort. All About the Message has since submitted a very short letter to the FCC stating they were pulling their petition from consideration, putting this latest attempt to annoy the hell out of you and your family to bed... for now.