The Bottom Line: And the Beep Goes On

March 13, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor
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Don't just hang up. Do something.


It’s a busy telecommuting day, and emails are pouring in faster than you can respond … and the phone rings … beep … it’s a recorded message. Or it’s been a long day, but dinner is done and smells great … and then phone rings … beep … it’s a recorded message. Or you’ve been waiting for a call all day and the phone finally rings … and it does, but instead of the person you’ve been waiting to hear from … beep … it’s a sales person from a company you don’t know. You get the idea.

Nearly a dozen years ago, consumers were afforded some protection against receiving unwanted phone calls. The National Do Not Call Registry was established to facilitate compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. It seemed like a wonderful solution to an annoying problem. Add a phone number to the registry and finally rid yourself of unwanted calls. Like most laws and implementation strategies, a few exceptions were made. Political organizations and charities could still call you. And the registry did not prevent collection agencies from interrupting dinnertime with bad news.

Immediately following the introduction of the registry, a wonderful phenomenon occurred—the house was quiet. And, when the phone rang, it was actually a friend or family member.

And then, technology happened. With all its benefits, technology made it easier for companies to use auto dialers that can send out thousands of calls every minute. In addition, like hackers in cyberspace, scammers began to take advantage of auto dialers coupled with prerecorded messaging to open the phone lines. Slowly at first but with growing frequency, unwanted phone calls began arriving … again.

But the fact is that the law hasn’t changed. Once a phone number is registered on the Do Not Call list, calling the number is illegal for most organizations. Companies must check the list every 31 days and must update their phone lists. Not offering an option to remove a number from a list during the call is illegal. Those who violate the National Do Not Call Registry or place illegal robocalls can be fined up to $16,000 per call.

The bottom line is that for some people, sales and robocalls are a mere annoyance. But many of those calls are illegal, and the Federal Trade Commission needs everyone’s help to ensure scammers are caught and prosecuted. Taking the time to report unwanted sales and robocalls not only will result in a quieter home, it could save someone from losing their life savings.

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