Political robo-calls will be stopping until the November general election approaches. In the meantime, although regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), we continue to receive calls from commercial telemarketers even when we have registered our phones on the national Do-Not-Call registry.
FCC telemarketing policy is posted at fcc.gov. Once registered our phones stay on the list until we remove them or discontinue the phone service. The FCC posts a complaint form to report companies who violate the rules regulating telemarketers. We can also be placed on company-specific do-not-call lists. The FCC fines businesses that don't maintain a record of people requesting to be taken off their company calling list. But they don't say if they preemptively fine anyone for calling someone on the national registry.
Disregard of both systems by telemarketers is evident from the way we're treated. Here's how it has worked for me. The cell phone rings as I am driving. I pull off the highway, press the most recent number in the missed call menu and to my dismay, I have inadvertently contacted a telemarketer.
A telemarketer at (425) 390-8149 said he represented a "home protection plan." He had his spiel memorized and wanted to be sure he got in every word before I cut him off. So while traffic on the highway was speeding past, I was engaged in an over-talk exercise with a very intense salesman. I said that I registered my cell phone number on the Do-Not-Call list while he was telling me his offer was for a limited time only. I said that I did not want to talk to him. But he continued by telling me about the benefits of his product. I told him to take my number off his list; but he wanted me to believe it was a privilege for me to be selected. I said I would report him and his company; and he said there was no reason for me to be hostile. I hung up. The charge for minutes stopped, and when I got home, I looked him up. 800notes.com has a reverse number lookup and blog. This telemarketer at (425) 390-8149 had 144 posts and ranked second in getting the most irate complaints. The blogs are a good place to vent against telemarketers but they're as ineffective as yelling at the kids without enforcing discipline.
Before that call, an automated telemarketing message for insurance was at the top of my outrage list. I held the phone far enough away from my ear not to be burdened with the content of the canned message but close enough to know when it was finished. Then I pressed option No. 1. (A common method telemarketers use for removing our number off their calling list.) A woman with a very sweet voice answered but changed her tune when she found out I wanted to be removed from their list. She scolded me. Option No. 1 was for more information and she was "tired of people using it to tell her they don't want to be called." Although I told her I would file a complaint with the FCC, within a week I got another call from this same group.
The FCC says electing this option with each company who calls takes you off their list is good for five years. Some telemarketers calls don't include an option to take you off their call list. Some automated instructions on how to be taken off their list are muffled so it's impossible to hear what number to press to accomplish removal. If these calls are from people who are paid by the hour or companies that don't expect to be around to service the products they are selling, which agency will be looking at lists after they have closed up shop?
We are at a disadvantage. Our private phone numbers are sold to telemarketers. We don't know if any follow up is done on our formal complaints. All of this could be avoided if the FCC would set up a plan that requires businesses to cross-reference the national list before making their calls. It's implied but it's unsupported by experience.
I'd enjoy hearing that one of our political candidates would help us out with this.