Do Not Call Registry, Robo-callers and the FTC

January 17, 2015
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Do Not Call RegistryIt is rare today for many people to have home phones. Most of us have given up the idea that a land line is necessary, and now only have cell phones. At first, that switch stopped most, if not all, telemarketing calls. We all were overjoyed; finally those annoying dinner-time calls ceased. No more pretending we were someone else, or lying about the people who live in our house with us. We were finally at peace to eat and have uninterrupted conversation with the people we wanted to talk to.

Way before most of us even had cell phones, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in 1991 to stop unsolicited calls. But technically, it didn’t stop them. It set limits on when telemarketers can call, stopped them from calling people who request not to be called, and required them to respect a company specific do not call list. At that point, it was solely up to consumers to get themselves on each company’s do not call list. Not only did you need to know to do that, but also trust that the company itself would honor your request. And unless your call was recorded, and you were given access to it, it was easy for a company to just say that you never called, or never asked.

Unfortunately, many companies did not always comply with their own do not call list, and in 2004 the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, signed into law the National Do Not Call list. This law allowed anyone to register their phone number online on a national registry that stopped telemarketers from calling them. This law mostly applied to land line phones, as cell phone numbers are harder to obtain.

This law also stopped robo-callers, or automated and/or pre-recorded calls, from happening to ANY cell phone. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made it clear that it is against the law for any pre-recorded or autodialed calls or texts to be made to any wireless phone unless in the case of an emergency (Learn how to stop robo-calls).

So, why are we bringing this up now? Doesn’t it seem that both these law have completely taken care of the problem of unsolicited and telemarketing calls? Unfortunately, they have not. Companies sell your number to 3rd parties, use new technology to block their numbers so caller IDs are useless, and some companies you do business with embed an approval agreement into their “fine print.”

It is possible to get these companies to stop calling you, but persistence is key. There are lots of tips out there, but over and over again most say to either not answer the call, as this tells the company there is actually a person at the other end of the number. Or you can ask the company to stop calling you, and log it in their system. If a company that you’ve done business with keeps calling, your best option is likely the latter. But, keep in mind that any auto-dial call is illegal, so it is also wise to send a complaint to the FTC.

It seems that the National Do Not Call Registry is a work in progress, and unfortunately telemarketers and robo-callers are finding ways to work around the law. Many of these companies are located outside the US, and use the most recent technology to cover up their phone numbers on cell phone caller IDs. The Federal Trade Commission is working to stop these calls, as was shown by the summit held in 2012. But progress is slow. For now, keep your number as private as possible, and ask telemarketers to stop calling you.

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