Agnes Mason, a longtime city dweller, moved to the serene state of West Virginia to get away from crowded cities and noisy streets. She enjoys the quiet of her new surroundings. If only she could escape the constant ring of her phone with solicitations that persist throughout the day, late in the evening, and even on Sunday mornings. “They are a nuisance,” she protests. It’s gotten to the point where, if it’s a number she doesn’t recognize on her caller ID, she doesn’t pick up the phone.
Millions of others share Mason’s frustrations with personal intrusions by telemarketing salespeople touting everything from property and surveys to sweepstakes and political candidates.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) became law in 1991 to safeguard the consumer against a variety of these solicitations, which include, “the initiation of a telephone call or message for the purpose of encouraging the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services, which is transmitted to any person….” The act makes provisions for citizens to take legal action against pursuant companies.
It also, however, has loopholes — to the delight of telemarketers who take full advantage of them. Calling restrictions are off-limits to tax exempt, nonprofit organizations, and companies that have an established business relationship with the prospective consumer. If you consider the number of companies with which you conduct business (i.e., schools, banks, insurance firms, etc.), your phone is probably ringing right now with an eager pitchman on the other end.
To stop the harassment, you might have to take matters into your own hands. The Federal Consumer Information Center (FCIC) offers several tips to consider:
Remove your name from all mailing lists. This feature is offered by the consumer credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, and Innovis) by calling 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688), or by writing to TransUnion L.L.C.’s Name Removal Option, P.O. Box 97328, Jackson, Mississippi, 39288. Include your full name, current and recent addresses, social security number, date of birth, and signature.
Tell telemarketers who call to put you on their “Do Not Call” lists and note the call. If a telemarketer from the same company calls again, note the date and report it. According to the TCPA statute, you are entitled to $500 every time your request is violated. Also contact the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) at 212-768-7277, or www.the-dma.org, which operates three services to remove consumers from DMA members’ telemarketing lists. The DMA has a delete file of names that is updated four times a year and made available to telephone marketing companies monthly. It may take a couple of months before you notice a difference. There is a $15 processing fee if you register for this service online. There is no charge if you register by mail.
Tell companies with whom you do business to remove your name from customer lists that they may rent or sell to other marketers. In fact, according to www.junkstopper.com, a consumer support site, every time you change your long-distance carrier, competitors take it as an invitation to solicit your business.