Put a Stop to Annoying Telephone Calls

Physician's Money Digest, August31 2003, Volume 10, Issue 16

This past July 4, Americans got to celebratea new type of freedom: freedomfrom annoying telemarketing callsthat interrupt precious family time athome. The National Do Not Call (DNC)Registry, which began its rollout in lateJune, is a free service of the federal governmentthat lets you add your phonenumber to a list, which telemarketersaren't allowed to call. So far, it hasreceived an amazing response. ByAugust 1, more than 30 million telephonenumbers had already beenlogged onto the registry.

DNC REGISTRY FACTS

The process to join the registry is simple.Call 888-382-1222 or visit www.ftc.gov/donotcall.gov to register up to 3phone numbers at 1 time, including cellphone numbers. Callers who added theirphone numbers to the list before the endof August will no longer hear from telemarketersafter October 1 of this year.Those who sign up September 1 or laterwill stop receiving calls 3 months after theday they register. Once a number is registered,it remains on the list for 5 years.

According to the Federal Trade Commission,which manages the DNC registrylist, "The decision to create the registryfollowed a comprehensive, 3-year reviewof the Telemarketing Sales Rule; 7 yearsof enforcement experience; informationshared in many public workshops, meetings,and briefings; and over 64,000 publiccomments, most of which favored the creationof a do-not-call registry."

Despite the DNC registry's ability toprevent telemarketers from calling youat home, you're not 100% protected.Business numbers cannot be registered;so you may still receive telemarketingcalls at your medical practice. And eventhose numbers listed on the registry maystill receive calls from political organizations,charities, telephone surveyors, andinsurance businesses (to the extent thatit's regulated in your state).

In addition, a company with whichyou have an "established business relationship"can call you for up to 18months after your last transaction withthem (ie, your last purchase, payment, ordelivery). A company can also call you forup to 3 months after you make aninquiry or submit an application.

Despite these exceptions, officialsbelieve the registry will still reduce theamount of calls made to American households.In fact, telemarketing companiescan receive fines of up to $11,000 for eachcall that isn't in compliance. Consumerrights: Even those companies that areexempt from the DNC registry must stillcomply with your wishes if you specificallyask them not to call you again.

OUTSPOKEN OPPONENTS

However, while the public is cheering,the American Teleservices Association(ATA) says that implementation of theNational DNC Registry shows a distinctlack of balance between consumer andbusiness interests. It says it will cost theUS economy up to 2 million jobs, in anindustry that produces over $660 billionworth of sales per year. ATA ChairmanTom Rocca stated, "Our fragile economycannot possibly withstand the rapid lossof jobs among the hard-to-employ workersthat our industry utilizes."

Tim Searcy, executive director of theATA, provided the following demographicbreakdown of business-to-consumeroutbound callers:

  • 64% of callers are members ofminority groups;
  • 30% of callers do not have highschool diplomas;
  • 30% of callers come from welfare-to-work programs;
  • 26% of callers are single mothers;
  • 5% of callers are physically disabled.

Mainstream MarketingServices, Inc, v Federal TradeCommission.

The ATA filed suit against the FederalTrade Commission on January 29, 2003, infederal court in the state of Colorado.The case is captioned