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On April 27, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a challenge to a November 2016 FTC staff letter addressing certain prerecorded calls or “robocalls” using soundboard technology.

Soundboard robocalls use live agents to play recorded messages instead of talking to the person who picks up the phone. Over the years, the FTC has received numerous complaints about these calls from consumers reporting that they weren’t getting appropriate responses to their questions or comments – even when they asked to speak to a live agent. The FTC also learned that operators were often juggling multiple calls at once. As a result, the November 2016 letter announced that FTC staff would begin treating calls using soundboard technology as robocalls under the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The Soundboard Association went to court to challenge the November 2016 staff letter. Last year, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the letter was properly issued and didn’t violate the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment requirements. The Association appealed. In the recent ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court dismissed the Soundboard Association’s challenge to the letter outright, holding that the November 2016 FTC staff letter was not a “final agency action” that would justify review under the Administrative Procedure Act.

The message for marketers has not changed: FTC staff regard calls using soundboard technology as robocalls for TSR purposes. This means that companies must have each consumer’s express written consent before calling and that fundraisers can only use soundboard technology to solicit charitable contributions from previous donors: no robocalls to new donors.

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May 08, 2018
Larry Bradley
May 09, 2018
More needs to be done. These calls are happening throughout the day. Even when you are asked by some automated boards to be taken off the list, your request is ignored. You need to find out who is selling my cell phone number to these soundboards and see if you can prosecute them for privacy laws violation. I am a Federal Government contractor and I am even getting bogus calls from military facilities in my area (i.e. Ft Eustis, VA). How does soundboard technology monitor my cell phone calls to pick that up. Please help more! Larry
Nancy Hodge
May 09, 2018
I receive calls from various companies telemarketing. They do not show on my phone ID the company name, instead it shows local numbers and a persons name. When I call the number back at the number I that it is indeed the person shown in my ID. However these people have not placed the call to me and are unaware that their phone number and name is being used for caller ID for companies soliciting to sell a product. Is this legal? How do we stop this?
Thelma Scharer
May 16, 2018
I have started getting texts, and SMS messages that are group conversations. None of us know each other but we've all been grouped together and receive the same messages at the same time. I can see their replies of "STOP", or "who is doing this?" The caller shows a phone number but when you dial it back, it says number cannot be completed as dialed. This is happening up to 10 times a day. How can I stop this?

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