Those annoying political robocalls: Legal or illegal?

Those annoying political robocalls: Legal or illegal?
With Election Day just 26 days away, the candidates and their supporters are working overtime to bring in donations and get out the vote.

One way to do that - robocalls.

It's hard to know if political robocalls work. But I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that people hate these pre-recorded messages.

"It kind of angers me that this would happen," says Darren Dezutter of Tacoma, who has been bombarded with political robocalls.

He tells me he considers it to be harassment.

"Especially when the calls are coming in two, three, at the peak. I was called five times in one day and I think that's excessive," he says.

OK, they are annoying. But are they legal?

It all depends whether the call is made to a landline phone or a cell phone.

Political robocalls are allowed on landline phones. They are prohibited on cell phones.

Let me explain how that works.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and that law does not ban political robocalls - and here's why.

"We don't consider those calls telemarketing. They're not trying to sell you something," says the FTC's Lois Greisman. According to him, political robocalls to a landline are allowed - even if your phone number is on the "National Do Not Call Registry."

It's a whole different story at the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC bases its rules on the Telephone Consumer Protection act and that law does prohibit robocalls to mobile devices.

The FCC's rules ban prerecorded voice messages and autodialed calls or text messaging to any cell phone, pager or other mobile device, unless it's an emergency or the caller has advance written permission from the recipient. The penalty for violating the rule is a fine of as much as $16,000 per violation.

What makes robocalls or robo-texts to a wireless device different?

Well for one thing, you are basically paying for these calls or texts - since they reduce your bucket of minutes.

So to recap - political robocalls allowed on landlines but prohibited on cells phones and other mobile devices.

If you have received an unwanted political robocall or text message on a wireless device, I encourage you to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.