The FCC is cracking down on ringless voicemail spam

Companies will need your permission to leave silent messages.

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You're not the only one tired of ringless voicemails that put spam in your inbox. The Federal Communications Commission has determined that these silent voicemails are covered by the same Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules that forbid robocalls without consent. Companies need your permission to leave these junk messages as they're still considered calls, the FCC says. The ruling takes effect today.

The finding comes five years after marketers first asked for exemptions to the regulations surrounding ringless voicemails, the FCC says. The requests, from All About the Message and two other petitioners, reportedly drew "overwhelming" negative feedback from public commenters. The Commission added that it receives "dozens" of complaints about these voicemails each year. FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed extending the TCPA to this spam in February.

As with other robocall crackdowns, there's no guarantee the voicemails will stop. Spammers may find alternate avenues to deliver these messages, and the FCC can only do so much to limit spam originating outside the US. However, this does establish firm boundaries inside the country — companies who flout the rules risk FCC action and customer lawsuits that could prove costly.