10 telemarketing no-nos
This dinner scenario is way too familiar: A scrumptious
fork-load of potatoes is halfway to your mouth when the phone rings.
It's not your parents, nor your siblings, not even a long-lost relative.
It's an unwanted sales call.
Dinner is stone cold. What happened to family time?
Time to take action
To get rid of these unsolicited calls, register
your personal phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry,
a free service offered by the federal government. This registry
puts you in charge of the number of telemarketing calls you'll receive.
The Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer
protection agency, created and manages the National Do Not Call
Registry. By adding your phone number to the list, you'll be able
to block most of those unwanted calls, but not all. Political organizations,
charities and telephone surveyors may still call.
Beginning September 2003, telemarketers, sellers and
their service providers have had access to the registry. They are
required to scrub their call lists against the National Do Not Call
Registry at least once every three months. Beginning in January
2005, they'll have to check their lists every month for changes.
Compliance has been high thanks to the steep fine that violators
must pay -- up to $11,000 per violation.
After registering your phone number, it'll take about
three months before telemarketers must remove you from their lists.
Know the telemarketing rule
Another safety guard against unwanted telemarketing calls is
the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule. This rule empowers you to stop
telemarketing calls and gives state law enforcement officers the
authority to prosecute fraudulent telemarketers who operate across
The rule covers most types of telemarketing calls,
including calls that pitch goods, services, sweepstakes, prize promotions
and investment opportunities. It also extends to calls that consumers
make in response to materials received in the mail or through the
Internet. Become familiar with this law. It can make your dinnertime
- Telemarketers may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- It's illegal for a telemarketer to call you if you've asked
them to stop calling.
- Telemarketers must promptly identify the seller or charitable
organization and whether the call is a sales call or charitable
- Telemarketers offering a prize promotion must tell you that
no purchase or payment is necessary to enter or win. If you're
asked to pay for a prize, hang up. They must also tell you the
odds of winning and any restrictions or conditions on receiving
- It's illegal to misrepresent any material information, such
as facts about goods or services, earnings potential, profitability,
investment risk or prize.
- Telemarketers cannot withdraw money from your checking account
without your expressed, verifiable authorization. They must tell
you the total number of payments, the amount of each payment,
the date the payments will be submitted to your bank and which
account they will charge.
- Telemarketers are prohibited from buying or selling credit
card and other account numbers that aren't encrypted. This helps
prevent telemarketers who have bought your credit card number
from automatically billing you without your express, informed
- Telemarketers have to transmit their identifying information
to consumer caller-ID systems.
- Telemarketers must connect calls to their sales representatives
within two seconds of consumer's answering. This limits those
"dead air" calls that result when telemarketers use
automatic dialing equipment, but don't have enough sales reps
to respond as soon as a consumer answers the phone.
- Telemarketing sales rules apply to for-profit
telemarketers who solicit contributions for nonprofit organizations.
This is important because charitable organizations have been exempt
from federal telemarketing rules. Charities that want to remain
exempt must hire their own sales staff.