Telemarketing Tips: Stop Telemarketers
Good news! The coolest thing the government has done since Roth IRAs is team up with the FTC to start something called the National Do Not Call Registry. Here is how it works: Most telemarketers cannot call your telephone number if it is in the National Do Not Call Registry. You can register your home and mobile phone numbers for free. Your registration will be effective for five years. All you have to do is sign up on their site or call this number:
You must be call from the number you wish to register. By registering with the National Do Not Call service, you will limit the telemarketing calls you receive. Starting from October 1, 2003, when the National Do Not Call Registry was first enforced, most telemarketers were required to remove the numbers on the registry from their call lists. The registry was created to offer consumers a choice regarding telemarketing calls. The FTC's decision to create the National Do Not Call Registry was the culmination of a comprehensive, three year review of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, as well as the Commission's extensive experience enforcing the Rule over seven years. The FTC held numerous workshops, meetings and briefings to solicit feedback from interested parties and considered over 64,000 public comments, most of which favored creating the registry. You can review the entire record here.
The National Do Not Call Registry is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency. It is enforced by the FTC and state law enforcement officials.
Telemarketers and sellers are required to search the registry at least every three months and drop from their call lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered. The dedicated, fully automated, and secure web site at telemarketing.donotcall.gov (first available September 1, 2003) provides this information to telemarketers and sellers. As of October 1, 2003, a consumer who receives a telemarketing call despite being on the registry will be able to file a complaint with the FTC, either online or by calling a toll-free number. Violators can be fined up to $11,000 per incident.
How long does is take to get off telemarketers' lists?
If you registered by August 31, 2003, you will start receiving fewer telemarketing calls by October 1, 2003. If you register after September 1, 2003, telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry will have up to three months from the date you register to stop calling you.
Do Not Call Registry Statistics
As of Wednesday, July 9 2004, a total of 23 million telephone numbers have been registered and accounted for with the National Do Not Call Registry. 84% of those numbers have been registeres via the Internet. Since Monday, July 7 (the first day that the 800 number service was available to consumers residing east of the Mississippi River), consumers registered over 3.8 million telephone numbers--1.8 million via the telephone and 2 million via the Internet.
Do Not Call Registry Scam
Please review our article here regarding the ways people have already begun to use this service as a way to possibly take advantage of you.
How To Get Off The Lists
If you receive telemarketing calls, simply ask this question: "Is this a telemarketing call or a solicitation?" If they are, the company HAS TO SAY YES if it is, and then by law if you ask to be taken off of the list, they HAVE TO TAKE YOU OFF. In some cases if you have asked and they continue to call you, you can sue them. It is illegal. They have to obey. Generally they do remove you if you ask politely. You will be surprised. I do it all the time and it works every time. Occasionally, I will get some kid who is bored and sassy, but you just have to stand your ground and they have to listen to you. All thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, established in 1991 (see below). Congress passed this Act granting consumers certain rights to defend themselves against unwanted telemarketing calls. The Act outlawed various offensive practices, such as the use of recorded messages for solicitations (yes, these are actually illegal!) In some cases you can be rewarded up to $500 dollars compensation for putting up with these harassing calls.
Telemarketing is governed primarily by two statutes:
First: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. § 227.
The TCPA's prohibitions and regulations include:
- A prohibition on the use of an automatic dialing system or prerecorded voice to make sales calls to emergency phone lines, medical offices, hospital rooms, homes for the elderly, paging services, or cellular phones. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1)(A)(i)-(iii).
- A prohibition on the use of artificial or prerecorded voice telemarketing, except where there is an emergency or the call recipient gives prior consent. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1)(B).
- A prohibition on the transmission of unsolicited commercial facsimile messages ("junk faxes"). 47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1)(C).
- A requirement that all commercial facsimile messages include accurate date, time, and sending telephone number information in the margin of the message. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (d)(1)(B).
- The creation of a private right of action allowing individuals, businesses, and state officials to bring a case in court for minimum damages of $500 and up to $1500 in damages where the telemarketer "knowingly" or "willfully" violated the TCPA. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(3), (f)(1).
- The opportunity for the Federal Communications Commission to issue regulations to improve protections against telemarketing, including the ability to create a national DNC list. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (c). The FCC never created this list.
- The opportunity for states to enact legislation to increase protections against the sending of junk faxes, the use of autodialing systems, the use of prerecorded and artificial voice systems, and the making of telephone solicitations. 47 U.S.C. § 227 (e).
SECOND: The Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud Abuse Prevention Act empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), 16 C.F.R. Part 310.
At this time, the TSR restrictions on telemarketers include:
- Telemarketers must make certain disclosures at the outset of the sales call. These disclosures include the name of the seller and that the call is being made for sales purposes. In case of a purchase, the telemarketer must disclose the total charge of the sale, whether there are restrictions on the sale, and whether there is a refund policy.
- Sweepstakes telemarketing involve special disclosures as well. The telemarketer must inform the call recipient that no purchase is necessary in order to participate, the odds for winning, and whether there is a cost associated with participation.
- Calls cannot be initiated before 8 AM or after 9 PM in the recipient's timezone.
- Telemarketers must obtain "express verifiable authorization" before engaging in certain transactions, such as making a draft directly from a bank account.
- Telemarketers must maintain records, including records of advertisements, sales records, and employee records.
What can you do to take action against telemarketers?
You have the power to file complaints and take heed of the laws that protect you against entities or persons who continue to call you after you have requested to be placed on a "do not call" list. Some states allow you to file suit against the violators; you may be awarded $500 in damages or actual monetary loss, whichever is greater. This amount may be tripled if you are able to show that the caller willfully and knowingly violated do-not-call requirements.
States themselves may initiate a civil suit in federal district court against any person or entity that engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the TCPA or FCC rules. If you have questions for your state regarding unsolicited telephone marketing, you may contact your local or state consumer protection office or your state Attorney General's office. These numbers should be listed in the government section of your telephone directory, or you can obtain them by calling directory assistance.
While the FCC may not award monetary or other damages, it can give citations or fines to those violating the TCPA or other FCC rules regarding unsolicited telephone marketing calls. If you would like to send the FCC a complaint about suspected violations of the TCPA or of the FCC's rules, you can file it by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the Internet (http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html), by telephone 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY, or by mail:
445 12th Street,
SW Washington, DC 20554
Include the following in your complaint:
- your name, address, and daytime phone number
- the action you are requesting of the violator
- the date you requested to be added to the organization's do-not-call list
- the name of the individual with whom you spoke
- the home or business telephone number the solicitor gave; the name address, and telephone number of the organization placing the calls
- the dates and times you received calls from the organization
JUNK FAXES ARE ALSO ILLEGAL!
Under 47 U.S. Code 227 United States law, it is unlawful "to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement" to any "equipment which has the capacity (A) to transcribe text or images (or both) from an electronic signal received over a regular telephone line onto paper."
The law allows individuals to sue the sender of such illegal "junk fax" or (arguably) "junk email" for $500 per copy. Small Claims Court is generally a conclusive means when tyring to sue companies for violating such laws. Following is an excerpt of this law. Please visit our downloads section for a .pdf of the full text for this law.
TITLE 47--TELEGRAPHS, TELEPHONES, AND RADIOTELEGRAPHS
CHAPTER 5--WIRE OR RADIO COMMUNICATION
SUBCHAPTER II--COMMON CARRIERS Sec. 227.
Restrictions on use of telephone equipment
(a) Definitions as used in this section-- * * *
(2) The term "telephone facsimile machine" means equipment which has
the capacity (A) to transcribe text or images, or both, from paper into
an electronic signal and to transmit that signal over a regular telephone
line, or (B) to transcribe text or images (or both) from an electronic
signal received over a regular telephone line onto paper. * * *
(4) The term "unsolicited advertisement" means any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person's prior express invitation or permission.
(b) Restrictions on use of automated telephone equipment
It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States -- to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine; * * *
(c) to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send an unsolicited advertisement to a telephone facsimile machine; * * *
(3) Private right of action
A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State--
(A) an action based on a violation of this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection to enjoin such violation,
(B) an action to recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater, or
(C) both such actions.
If the court finds that the defendant willfully or knowingly violated this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection, the court may, in its discretion, increase the amount of the award to an amount equal to not more than 3 times the amount available under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph. * * *
(e) Effect on State law
(1) State law not preempted
Except for the standards prescribed under subsection (d) of this section and subject to paragraph (2) of this subsection, nothing in this section or in the regulations prescribed under this section shall preempt any State law that imposes more restrictive intrastate requirements or regulations on, or which prohibits--
(A) the use of telephone facsimile machines or other electronic devices to send unsolicited advertisements; * * *
[Amended 1994: Subsec. (b)(2)(C). Pub. L. 103-414, Sec. 303(a)(11), substituted "paragraph" for "paragraphs".]
[Amended 1992: Subsec. (b)(2)(C). Pub. L. 102-556 added subpar. (C). ]