The good, bad and ugly of the credit card industry and how credit cards affect consumers is generally what I write about for Examiner. In the course of providing educational and news content for a number of other websites, one question that isn't directly related to the subject crops up again and again. "I'm getting collection calls until late at night. What are my rights when it comes to unsolicited phone calls?"
After a busy day, who doesn't look forward to a quiet evening with no distractions? What happens is often anything but relaxing. On top of the jobs that need to done around the house and errands that need to be run, there's the incessant ringing of the phone. Frustrated, you jump up to answer it only to hear a telemarketer on the other end introducing his sales pitch or even worse a collections agent reminding us of an overdue obligation. Not only are these disruptions annoying, they cause undue stress at a time when you're looking to unwind after a long day.
History of the Do-Not-Call Registry
Thankfully, there is a way to end unsolicited calls by telemarketers and even those who have the right to call. Congress enacted the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act in 2003 that resulted in the National Do Not Call Registry. Intended to give U.S. consumers an opportunity to limit telemarketing calls, the law was challenged in court and implementation was delayed until 2004. There are exceptions to the ruling and robocalls are regulated under separate laws.
Rules Callers Must Abide By
Calls are to cease within 31 days of registration and are permanent. The Act prohibits removing numbers from the do-not-call registry unless the number is invalid, disconnected, or reassigned; or the individual to whom the number is assigned makes the request. The FTC must purge the registry of disconnected and reassigned numbers several times each month; businesses and telemarketers are to purge their call lists against the registry at least every 31 days.
Exceptions to the Rule
As with most laws there are exclusions to the Do-Not-Call Act. These are companies and organization that are allowed to register and purchase telephone lists from the Do Not Call Registry and will continue to call consumers.
- Political Organizations
- Non-profit Organizations
- Survey Companies
- Companies you’ve inquired about or applied to (up to 31 days)
- Previous business associations
(up to 18 months after the last purchase, payment or delivery)
- Bill Collectors and Primary Creditors
(except under some conditions of bankruptcy protection)
Nearly eight million Americans have registered. Consumers who do not want to register can still prohibit individual telemarketers from calling by asking for their number to be put on n the company’s do-not-call list. Consumers can also request that companies they’ve previously done business with to cease calling.
The FTC Telemarketing Sales Rules also prohibit deceptive and abusive telemarketing acts and practices and sets forth standards of conduct for telemarketing calls:
- Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Telemarketers must promptly tell you the identity of the seller or charitable organization and that the call is a sales call or a charitable solicitation.
- Telemarketers must disclose all material about the goods or services they are offering and the terms of the sale. They are prohibited from lying about terms of their offer.
To take advantage of your rights under the law, you must register your telephone number by calling 1.888.382.1222 from the phone you wish to register or visit the National Do Not Call Registry website. The FCC prohibits telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phones, making those numbers less likely to be called; however, you should still register your mobile phone. The ban applies only to residential and not business lines and never expires.
You should notice fewer calls within a month of registering. If you continue to receive telemarketing calls after that time, you can file a complaint at the National Do Not Call Registry website. You’ll need to provide the date of the call and the phone number or name of the company that called you. For more information, click here.
Note: A recent notice on the National Do Not Call Registry homepage warns of a recent scans. “Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls."