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An Asterisk For The National Do Not Call Registry

Updated on September 2, 2013
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For most of us, life is hectic enough without having it intruded upon by telemarketing and robo-calls.

It seems to me that since we pay for the phone and answering machine, for the phone service, and any repairs to the interior wiring, we should call the shots as to who can call us.

But, unless you have an unlisted phone number, in the eyes of the law you are inviting others to contact you.

Which is really for the best, I guess. What if a family member is out without a cell phone, or with dead batteries, or in a dead zone, and there’s an emergency. A passerby or good Samaritan would need to be able to contact you.

And there are many other instances we can’t even think of where someone unknown to us has a valid reason to call. And we couldn’t possibly foresee every emergency or urgency and give permission in advance.

If an emergency call was blocked because the caller hadn’t been given permission beforehand, who knows what harm would result.

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Since we don’t really control who calls us, the next best thing for preventing calls that most of us find intrusive and annoying is the National Do Not Call Registry (http://www.donotcall.gov/).

Once you’ve registered your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers have 31 days to remove your number from their call list, and they’re required to search the registry every 31 days and delete numbers that are in the registry from their call lists.

It began on October 1, 2003 when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) amended the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). They partnered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish the national Do Not Call registry.

In doing so, it gave us something to say about the telemarketing calls we’ll accept. But, it’s hardly a panacea, and it gets a little complicated.

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Who Can You Block?

You can block any plan, program, or campaign to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls, including telemarketers who solicit consumers, often on behalf of third party sellers.

Like when the caller says he’s Joe from the local police department looking to raise money for their “widows and orphans fund.” If you check with your local police, you’ll likely find that he’s a paid telemarketer calling from a phone bank somewhere.

If you press further, you’ll probably find that his company gets the bigger portion of your contribution.

However, the FTC points out, “if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, a consumer may ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity.

If a third-party telemarketer calls again on behalf of that charity, the telemarketer may be subject to a fine of up to $16,000.”

You can also block sellers who provide, offer to provide, or arrange to provide goods or services to consumers in exchange for payment.

Who Can You Not Block?

Politicians, of course. The FTC says that “political solicitations are not covered by the TSR at all, since they are not included in its definition of “telemarketing.”

Is it just me, or do you also wonder what it would take to get political solicitations included in the FTC’s definition of “telemarketing.”

Most of us experienced the robo-call frenzy of the 2012 election cycle. Well, get ready for 2014 and 2016, unless something is done about it. Don’t hold your breath.

Politicians and political organizations are not subject to the restrictions of the Do Not Call Registry.

They are, however, subject to the restrictions of registered voters, who hold a lot of power over them. If enough of us call their political machines at the beginning of the campaign and tell them that if they call us more than once, it’s a guaranteed blank space on the ballot, we may actually see fewer annoying calls.

The Registry, which also does not apply to charities or those who are conducting telephone surveys, comes complete with a loophole for businesses.

If a company has an established business relationship with you, they can all you for up to 18 months after your last purchase, delivery, or payment…even if your number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Not only that, but a company may call you for up to three months after you make an inquiry or submit an application to them. If you’ve given a company written permission, they’re allowed to still call you even if your number is on the Registry.

But You Have An Escape Route

However, if you specifically ask a company not to call, then they’re not allowed to call you, even if there is an established business relationship.

It doesn’t matter if your number is on the Registry or not. If you ask to be put on the company's own “do not call” list, they must honor your request and are forbidden to call you.

How To File A "Do Not Call" Complaint

You can log on to the registry’s web site, www.donotcall.gov, and select the File a Complaint tab on the left side of the page. That will take you to the FTC Complaint Assistant, which is a form that you fill out. Or you may prefer to call the registry’s toll-free number 1-888-382-1222 instead.

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