Supreme Court upholds Indiana robocall law

State can block robocalls, even from non-profit groups

Indiana has struck a blow against robocalls, even those carried out by non-profit organizations.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's ruling that upheld the Hoosier state's anti-robocall law, which bars pre-recorded messages sent to consumers' phones without their consent.

Patriotic Veterans, Inc., a non-profit organization, asked for the review to make an exception for non-profits. It argued in court that the Indiana law violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Now that the Supreme Court has settled the issue, it is possible other states may pass laws based on the Indiana statute.

Indiana argued that political and non-profit groups are allowed under the law to make calls, even to numbers on the Do Not Call list, as long as the calls are placed by a human operator and don't use a recorded voice.

More intrusive

Part of the objection consumers have to robocalls is the technology allows an operation to place many calls at once. A human being is required only if a consumer answers the phone and remains on the line. It results in many more telemarketing calls than in a single person called individual numbers. The efficiency it provides is one reason telemarketers now favor robocalling.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill praised the high court's decision to let the state law stand.

“Every day, telemarketers seek to burden residences with automated, pre-recorded phone calls conveying unwanted messages," Hill said. "Simply put, without this law they would be a nuisance.”

Hill says his office received more than 15,000 complaints last year about unwanted calls, the majority of which were robocalls.

Big increase in calls

A 2016 report by the YouMail National Robocall Index (YNRI) estimated that as many as 2.3 billion robocalls were made in the U.S. in the month of January alone. The report said nearly one in six phone numbers calling the average consumer is a robocall.

While some robocalls are perfectly legitimate -- your dentist might use such a system to confirm your appointment -- the technology has recently been deployed by scammers.

Instead of a solitary scammer dialing up potential victims, getting into his pitch, only to have the target hang up on him, technology can make thousands of calls and play a recording when a potential victim answers.

Most people are going to hang up, but the few who respond are connected to a person who then tries to reel them in. It makes the scam a lot more efficient and dangerous.

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