2017-01-10 / Front Page

Ban on robocalls survives another challenge

A federal court has upheld Indiana’s comprehensive ban on automated robocalls to peoples’ phones without their consent.

According to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, the ruling was issued Jan. 3 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The ruling decides a legal challenge filed in 2010 by nonprofit Patriotic Veterans Inc., which sought to carve out an exception to the robocall ban for political messages.

Last November, Patriotic Veterans, Inc., argued before the court that the anti-robocall statute violated the First Amendment of the Constitution. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller called this week’s ruling rejecting that argument an important win for Hoosiers who continue to be bombarded by illegal automated calls.

Zoeller enforces the state’s telephone privacy laws and investigates complaints about robocalls and other unwanted calls, which remain the top complaint received by his office. In 2016, the office received more than 15,000 complaints about unwanted calls, a majority of which were about robocalls.

Earlier in the case, the U.S. District Court, whose initial ruling was affirmed in this week’s Seventh Circuit decision, credited the state’s role in restricting robocalls:

“Because ADAD [auto-dialed] calls intrude on the privacy and tranquility of the home and the recipient does not have the opportunity to indicate the desire to not receive such calls to a live operator, the government has a substantial interest in limiting the use of unsolicited, unconsented-to ADAD calls.”

While this lawsuit was pending, Indiana’s Auto Dialer law, Ind. Code 24-5-14, remained in effect. The law restricts the use of technology that automatically dials residential phone numbers and plays prerecorded messages, also called robocalls, with few exceptions.

The penalty for violating the Indiana Auto Dialer law is up to $5,000 per call. The attorney general said his office has aggressively enforced the law by seeking sanctions against those who violate it. Last year, Zoeller warned political campaigns to adhere to state telephone privacy laws and refrain from robocalling residents leading up to the 2016 primary election on May 3 and the general election on Nov. 8.

The Statute has been under attack since 2010. Former Attorney General Steve Carter, credited with creating the first No-Call Registry and providing Hoosiers with the state’s comprehensive enforcement against auto dialers, weighed in on this week’s decision upholding the Autodialer statute.

“More than a decade ago Indiana began its battle to protect Hoosiers from telemarketing abuse by robocallers. I am glad the courts have seen fit, in the many lawsuits brought by telemarketers, to continue to protect us from this invasion of personal privacy,” Carter said.

Campaigns and political groups are allowed to make traditional “live” calls, even to numbers registered on the Do Not Call list, as long as the calls are not sales calls.

Zoeller said if someone receives an unwanted campaign call, simply ask to be removed from the caller’s list. To block general telemarketing calls, sign up for the Do Not Call list at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1.888.834.9969.

Indiana residents who receive a political robocall or any other unwanted call can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or calling 1.888.834.9969.

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