Regulation of Robocalls

Unsolicited calls are among the most frequent consumer complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The use of automatic dialing-announcing devices (referred to as robocalls) to make these calls is on the rise, with estimates indicating 4.3 billion such calls were received across the United States in September 2023…

Current Kansas Law

The Kansas No-Call Act1 (No-Call Act) prohibits calls to consumers from automatic dialing-announcing devices in certain instances. The No-Call Act defines “automatic dialing-announcing device” to mean any user terminal equipment that when connected to a telephone line, can dial, with or without manual assistance, telephone numbers that have been stored or programmed in the device or are produced or selected by a random or sequential number generator, or when connected to a telephone line can disseminate a recorded message to the telephone number called, either with or without manual assistance.

Under the No-Call Act, telephone solicitors making calls, including robocalls, are required to:

  • Identify themselves;
  • Identify the business on whose behalf such person is soliciting;
  • Identify the purpose of the call immediately upon making contact by telephone with the person who is the object of the telephone solicitation;
  • Promptly discontinue the solicitation if the person being solicited gives a negative response at any time during the consumer telephone call;
  • Hang up the telephone, or in the case of an automatic dialing-announcing device operator, disconnect the automatic dialing-announcing device from the telephone line within 25 seconds of the termination of the call by the person being called; and
  • Answer the line within 5 seconds of the beginning of the call by a live operator or an automated dialing-announcing device. If answered by automated dialing-announcing device, the message provided shall include only caller identification information, but shall not contain any unsolicited advertisement.

Additionally the No-Call Act states a telephone solicitor shall not be allowed to do any of the following:

  • Withhold the display of the telephone solicitor’s telephone number from a caller identification service when that number is being used for telemarketing purposes;
  • Transmit any written information by facsimile machine or computer to a consumer after the consumer requests orally or in writing that such transmissions cease; and
  • Obtain by use of any professional delivery, courier, or other pickup service, receipt or possession of a consumer’s payment, unless the goods are delivered with the opportunity to inspect before any payment is collected.

The No-Call Act is supplemental to the Kansas Consumer Protection Act2 (KCPA) and provides that local exchange carriers and telecommunications carriers shall not be responsible for the enforcement of the provisions of this section, and any violation of this section is an unconscionable act or practice under the KCPA.

The No-call Act was last updated in 2014 to, among other things, authorize the Office of the Attorney General to enforce Kansas law regarding calling a consumer’s listed cellphone number, not solely landline numbers. It also contained provisions to make changes in various timelines to conform with federal law.

Proposed Kansas Legislation

As proposed, 2017 HB 2273 would have increased restrictions on robocalls. The bill would have prohibited robocalls unless the person receiving the call had consented to or authorized receipt of the message or the message was immediately preceded by a live operator who obtained the person’s consent. Additionally, the bill would have prohibited robocalls before 9:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. The bill would have also prohibited calls from being made to hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, recuperation centers, ambulance services, emergency medical service facilities, mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, state institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, law enforcement agencies, or fire departments. During the 2018 Legislative Session, HB 2273 was passed by the House on a vote of 121-1, but no action was taken by the Senate Committee on Utilities before adjournment.

Additionally, on March 7, 2023, the Senate Committee on Utilities heard testimony on robocalls from a representative of the attorney general’s office. Staff of the Kansas Legislative Research Department provided an overview of robocall laws in Kansas and other states.

Policies in Other States3

As of October 2023, 44 states limit commercial robocalls in some way. Several states also limit robocalls to mobile devices.4Laws in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington specifically limit the use of automated text messages. Some states also specifically prohibit robocalls from being made to unlisted or unpublished numbers and to numbers including those for emergency rooms, hospitals, hotel rooms, vacation rentals, and paging devices.

While most states generally prohibit robocalls and automatic text messages, many also provide specific exceptions in their statutes. Examples of instances where automated calling or messaging may be allowed despite a general prohibition on the practice include delivery, delay, or other information about a purchase; prior relationship between the parties; charitable or nonprofit organization, public opinion polls, research surveys, or radio or television broadcast rating organization; collection of lawful debts; public school programs; and employee work schedules.

Additionally, some states have requirements for the time, day, duration, time of disconnection after the call has ended, and purpose for which robocalls may be used. Other requirements that states place on robocalls include providing the caller’s contact information or not blocking the caller identification; stating the name of the person for whom the call is intended; a live operator obtaining permission before playing a recorded message; requiring automated systems to be attended while in use; and, for political calls, identifying who paid for the call, whether a candidate authorized the call, and other identifying information.

Federal Legislation

In 2019, the federal TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act5, gave the FCC new tools to fight unwanted, and often illegal, robocalls. Among these tools are the following:

  • Adoption of the STIR/SHAKEN6 caller identification framework to verify that the caller identification (ID) information transmitted with a particular call matches the caller’s real number, reducing the effectiveness of an illegal spoofed caller ID;
  • Additional transparency and redress for callers and consumers when wanted calls are blocked inadvertently; and
  • A more streamlined process for private entities to voluntarily share information with the FCC regarding calls and text messages that violate laws regarding robocalls and spoofing.

In July 2023, the FCC, Department of Justice, FTC, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and other law enforcement partners, including attorneys general from all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, announced their participation in Operation Stop Scam Calls.7

Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center found that in 2021, about 60 million Americans paid $29.0 billion as a result of scam robocalls and texts. In 2022, 51 states and U.S. territory attorneys general came together to form the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force, targeting U.S. telecommunications companies that allow robocalls originating internationally to reach their customers. The attorneys general stated their aim is to put telecommunications companies on notice that they must stop scam calls before they go through to customers or face prosecution from multiple states collectively.8

Some of the anti-robocall principles developed by the Task Force and agreed to by the attorneys general and 12 major telecommunication providers include the following:

  • Offering free call blocking and labeling;
  • Implementing STIR/SHAKEN call authentication;
  • Analyzing and monitoring network traffic; and
  • Investigating suspicious calls and calling patterns.

Difficulties of Regulation

The Pew Charitable Trusts9 note regulation of these types of calls is difficult because of the impracticality of enforcement. Many companies simply do not follow the laws concerning robocalls and increasingly these companies are operating overseas, away from the investigative jurisdiction of the states. The National Do Not Call Registry blocks only legally operating businesses. Telephone companies have stated they are blocking known offensive numbers and are working to help law enforcement agents trace illegal robocalls to identify their origin. The FTC is also working on identifying “spoofed” numbers, which are fake phone numbers beginning with a local or familiar looking area code. Many advocates urge federal and state partnerships for maximum impact in preventing these calls. Ultimately, most concerned parties agree technology and apps will likely be the answer to avoiding and ending illegal robocalls.

  1. KSA 2022 Supp. 50-670 and KSA 2022 Supp. 50-670a. ↩︎
  2. KSA 2022 Supp. 50-623 et seq. ↩︎
  3. The following states and U.S. territories have no penalties listed for violating the National Do Not Call Registry provisions: Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, plus Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, North Mariana Islands, and Guam. ↩︎
  4. Additionally, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia do not include commercial robocalls in state laws prohibiting unsolicited commercial communications. ↩︎
  5. Public Law 116-05 (2019), amending 47 USCA 227; new sections codified at 47 USCA 227b, 227b-1, and 227b-2. ↩︎
  6. From the Federal Communication Commission, “Combating Spoofed Robocalls with Caller ID Authentication” accessed January 23, 2023: STIR/SHAKEN are acronyms for the Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards. This means that calls traveling through interconnected phone networks can have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers. STIR/SHAKEN digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is in fact from the number displayed on Caller ID. ↩︎
  7. This initiative, “Operation Stop Scam Calls,” targets telemarketers, including those who use telephone calls to commit fraud, as well as those who facilitate illegal telephone calls. The federal and state initiative not only targets telemarketers and the companies that hire them but also takes action against lead generators who deceptively collect and provide consumers’ telephone numbers to robocallers and others, falsely representing that these consumers have consented to receive calls. The effort also targets Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers who facilitate illegal robocalls every year, which often originates overseas. (FCC Joins Federal and State Robocall Partners to Launch ‘Operation Stop Scam Calls, FCC News, July 18, 2023) ↩︎
  8. State Attorneys General Unite Against Robocalls, PEW Stateline Article, August 15, 2022. ↩︎
  9. States Try to Silence Robocalls, But They’re Worse Than Ever, PEW Stateline Article, July 25, 2018
    [Note: In 2023, Stateline transitioned from The Pew Charitable Trusts to States Newsroom.] ↩︎

by Kate Smeltzer
Research Analyst