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'Do Not Call' registrations going smoother

Folks who want to stop telemarketers are getting through.

Registration problems that plagued the debut of the national Do Not Call registry on July 1 have been fixed, according to Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman Cathy MacFarlane.

"Things have been going extremely well even with the high volume. People are registering at quite a pace and the system is moving very smoothly. There are few reports of problems," MacFarlane says.

More than 15 million phone numbers were registered during the first five days, according to the agency. Approximately 88 percent of the registrations are being done online, with 12 percent by telephone.

It's the online registrations that caused a massive problem the first day of the program. The system couldn't handle the millions of people nationwide who tried to register their phone numbers to block telemarketing calls. AT&T, which is running the project's computer and phone systems added extra capacity to accommodate the volume.

THen another problem surfaced, one that pitted anti-spam against anti-telemarketing. Online registrations aren't complete until the registrant receives and responds to a confirmation e-mail from the FTC. Some e-mail providers flagged the FTC's e-mail as spam and blocked them. That prevented the would-be registrants from completing the process.

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"The spam problem has been solved," says MacFarlane. "If anyone registered their phone number and didn't receive e-mail from the FTC, wait 72 hours and then go back online and register that number again."

MacFarlane says she believes some people may not be completing the registration process because the response link in the FTC's e-mail doesn't work for everyone. In some e-mail programs, people can't just click on it to automatically create a confirmation to the FTC.

If you can't click on the link, highlight and copy it, then paste it in your Web browser's URL window -- the space where you type in Web addresses. Press "enter" and you should see the confirmation statement.

The FTC estimates that more than 60 million telephone numbers will be registered. That includes more than 14 million that will be transferred from state lists by Aug. 31.

Here are the details of the national Do Not Call registry:

The Do Not Call registry is maintained by the FTC, but is a joint project with the Federal Communications Commission, and will be enforced by both agencies. The registry covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls. Telemarketing calls from political organizations, charities and organizations conducting surveys are exempt from the do-not-call rules.

Registration is free and can be done online or by telephone. Instructions online and by phone are in English and Spanish.

Online registration is available nationwide at www.donotcall.gov. To register online, you must have an e-mail address. A confirmation e-mail will be sent to that address. You need to click on a link in the e-mail within 72 hours to finalize your registration. The FTC says it will keep e-mail addresses in a separate, secure area and they will not be available to telemarketers.

You can register up to three phone numbers at one time on the Web site. Telephone registration is available at 1-888-382-1222 or TTY 1-866-290-4236. Registration by phone is available in states west of the Mississippi River, including all of Minnesota and Louisiana. Registration by phone will be available to all states as of July 7, 2003.

To register by phone, you must call from the number you want to register. You can register cell phone numbers or home phone numbers, but registration is not open to business numbers.

Your registered phone numbers will stay in the registry for five years unless you choose to remove it. You can renew your registration after five years. The system automatically removes numbers that are disconnected.

If you register by Aug. 31, 2003, the FTC says you should start receiving fewer telemarketing calls by Oct. 1, 2003. If you register after Sept. 1, 2003, telemarketers have three months from the date of registry to stop calling you.

The FTC and FCC will begin accepting complaints as of Oct. 1 from consumers who continue receiving telemarketing calls.

To complain, go to www.donotcall.gov and click on the "File a Complaint" page, which will be available Oct. 1. You must have either the name of the company or its phone number, and the date the company called you.

Telemarketers are required to access the registry as of Sept. 1, 2003 and start scrubbing their lists of registered phone numbers. After Oct. 1, telemarketers are required to access the list every three months and update their lists. Calling registered numbers can result in a fine of up to $11,000 per call.

If you make a purchase or a payment, or accepted a delivery from a company, that company may call you for up to 18 months.

If you contact a company -- made an inquiry or submitted an application -- that company may contact you for up to three months.

You can still stop calls from those companies by telling them to not call you.

If you want to stop most calls, but give permission to allow calls from certain companies, both online and phone registration allow you to do so.

There are 27 states that have their own do-not-call lists. Many of them are combining their lists with the national registry. If your state is doing so, there is no need to register for the national list.


-- Updated: July 2, 2003
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States with "do not call" lists
How to deal with telemarketers
Telemarketers strike back at customers
Financial advice glossary
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