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FCC rulings aim to boost consumer rights

Phone calls from telemarketers can be downright annoying. Whether the calls are coming in during working hours or at the end of the workday, to a landline or a cellphone, these calls -- especially after you have told them to stop calling -- can become a real bother.

The Federal Communications Commission, frequently referred to as just the FCC, is the agency that regulates communications via wire, satellite, television, cable and radio. Recently, the commission provided clarity on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The idea is these clarifications will better protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls and text messages.

There are many perceived wins for consumers among these rulings, including the right to say "no" to calls. This means that if your telephone rings and it's a telemarketer, if you tell them to stop calling you, the telemarketer must listen. Even if you were once OK with the calls, but have since changed your mind, by telling them to stop calling your number, you should no longer receive calls from this telemarketer.

Many telemarketers had also found a loophole in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act: Calling phone numbers that had been reassigned. However, with these rulings, it is now quite clear that a telemarketer must stop calling a reassigned number after one call.

The FCC also did rule that telephone providers can offer consumers robocall-blocking technology. Robocalling is when a company uses an autodialer to send a computerized pre-recording to a consumer. Telephone providers can now offer technology to consumers in order to prevent these robocalls from coming through, without the fear of legal repercussion. Whether or not all telephone providers will take advantage of this, though, is yet to be seen.

The hope, of course, is that these rulings lead to better protection for consumers, both in California and across the country. Prior to these rulings, the FCC reported receiving more than 215,000 complaints last year, all related to unwanted calls.

In cases, though, where it appears a telemarketer is trying to skirt these rules, consumers do have the option to pursue legal action by contacting an attorney who practices consumer rights.

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