Sign Me Up!

Do-not-call list blocks telemarketers' attempts

Several months ago, Roosevelt Leftwich Sr.’s phone used to ring off the hook. Today, he receives two calls a day at most. But he’s not complaining. Leftwich, 71, wasn’t receiving calls from friends and family — he was on the list of seemingly every telemarketer working the senior citizen, cold-call beat.

“When the National Do Not Call Registry became available, I immediately put my father on the list,” says Roosevelt Leftwich Jr., 41, who signed up as well. “After I bought my house, I was bombarded with offers for extra lines of credit, refinancing, and even aluminum siding. Once I signed up with the registry, the calls stopped.” And with good reason: A telephone marketer can be fined $11,000 each time it calls a number on the list.

Congress passed the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act in February 2003. The act authorizes the Federal Trade Commission, which created the list in 2002, to collect fees from sellers and telemarketers to enforce the registry. In a poll conducted by Harris Interactive in January 2004, 92% of respondents who signed up with the registry reported receiving fewer calls since the list took effect last October. The FTC reports that 55 million telephone numbers were registered in the second half of last year, with only 150,000 complaints in 2003.

“The telemarketing industry has shown exceptional compliance with the National Do Not Call Registry,” says Timothy J. Muris, FTC chairman. Even groups like the Direct Marketing Association, the largest trade association representing the telephone marketing industry, have abandoned litigation regarding the registry. “The telephone marketing industry remains committed to respecting the wishes of those who have placed their household telephone numbers on the do-not-call list,” says H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO of the association. “Consumers must come first.”

Neil M. Richards, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in the field of privacy law, says the act is a boon for consumers. “Telemarketers are a business like any other, and when they engage in abusive and annoying conduct in their attempt to sell [their] products, they should be subject to consumer protection regulation,” he says. He notes that the do-not-call list is meant to discourage telemarketers from trying to establish business relationships with the consumer. “Calls by companies with whom the resident has done business in the past, as well as political and charitable calls, are excluded from the opt-in program,” Richards says.

To subscribe to the National Do Not Call Registry, go to www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222. You can register your home or cellular phone for free, and your registration will be effective for five years.

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