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Changes to Law Restrict Unsolicited Cellular Calls and Text Messages

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North Central Floridians will worry less about receiving unsolicited text messages or phone calls to their cellphones starting Oct. 16.

Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and many states have already reduced the volume of unsolicited messages and phone calls consumers receive, said Brian Buckley, litigation partner at the Fenwick & West law firm.

But changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act will make it even less likely for people to receive them.

Bed Bath and Beyond is one of many businesses that sent out text messages informing customers they had to re-opt in to continue receiving mobile messages and even offered incentives to those who did.
Bed Bath & Beyond is one of many businesses that sent out text messages informing customers they had to apply to continue receiving mobile messages, even offering incentives to those who did.

“The primary goal of the new changes is to make it more difficult for companies to send autodialed or prerecorded messages (either calls or texts) to consumers’ cellular phones without their consent,” he said.

The changes, brought about by the FCC, affect businesses that use mobile advertising. These businesses are required to have consumers give written consent to receiving text messages and phone calls. If the business fails to do so, they can face damages up to $500 per call or text message sent.

For those who have already opted into mobile advertising with certain businesses, you must sign up again to continue receiving those messages, or you will be removed from businesses’ messaging lists.

The new changes to the law were introduced in early 2012, but became effective Oct. 16, Buckley said.

One reason these changes were made to the law is the way some people view receiving unsolicited messages.

“Consumers continue to complain about unsolicited calls and texts, particularly to cell phones, because consumers are often charged for such messages,” Buckley said.  “The new rules are just the next step in the FCC’s effort to require consumers to clearly and expressly consent before receiving such messages.”

Dominic Patete, 20, of Gainesville, said he has reason to be annoyed by unsolicited text messages.

“Honestly, I can’t say how many telemarketing phone calls and random text messages businesses send me in one week,” Patete said. “They always contact me sending me coupons and specials about things I don’t even want.

“I’m just happy to know something is being done to stop it. My phone company charges for every text, so I shouldn’t have to pay for something I didn’t ask for.”

Customers who are subscribed to mobile text messages from different businesses received messages Monday and Tuesday informing them of the law’s changes and their requirement to respond if they want to continue receiving mobile text messages.

Sara Levy, 19, of Gainesville, said she isn’t too bothered by unsolicited phone calls and text messages because she can just ignore them.

“I’m a very calm person, so getting those calls doesn’t really upset me, but I understand why it does for some people,” Levy said. “I am subscribed to a lot of opt-in text messages and never thought twice about how other people see them until I heard they were changing the law because of them.”

A representatives from Bed Bath & Beyond, a company that uses these texting methods, said she would not comment on the changes.

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