The Federal Communications Commission will enforce stricter rules on so-called telemarketing "robocalls," mandating that these autodialed or prerecorded calls can only be placed to consumers who have already agreed in writing to receive them.
Companies will no longer be able to point to an established business relationship with a consumer to justify the automated pitches.
"Consumers have complained to us by the thousands about annoying robocalls," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski during the agency's monthly open meeting.
Robocalls made by charities and political campaigns and providing information like school closings, flight changes and prescription refill reminders will not be affected by the new rules.
The vote cracks down on telemarketers for banks, insurance agents, phone companies and others who used loopholes in the law that established the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry to continue to automatically dial consumers.
"The order we adopt today will require written opt-in, and it will make it easy for consumers to opt out. We're closing loopholes that have allowed robocallers to sneak through," Genachowski said.
The FCC said the calls invade consumers' privacy. The agency added that the calls often cut into wireless customers' minutes as more consumers rely solely on wireless services and do not have landlines.
All robocalls will also have to include an automated opt-out option to allow consumers to immediately notify telemarketers that they no longer want to receive these calls.
The FCC also voted to require Voice over Internet Protocol services, or VoIP, to report network outages that affect 911 emergency calls.
The reporting requirements are already in place for traditional carriers, and the vote extends them to the nearly one-third of residential telephone subscriptions provided through VoIP services like those of Vonage Holding Corp (VG.N).
(Reporting By Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Gerald E. McCormick)