10 years of National Do Not Call: Looking back and looking ahead

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To etiquette purists, the 10th anniversary dictates gifts of metal.  So to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Do Not Call Registry, the FTC presents this iron-clad guarantee:  You can count on us to continue to take action against companies that violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule, as today’s $7.5 million civil penalty — the largest ever collected in an FTC Do Not Call case — demonstrates.

The FTC’s allegations against Mortgage Investors Corporation – false money savings claims targeting current and former members of the armed forces, calls to people on the Do Not Call list, refusal to honor consumers’ requests to be placed on their entity-specific list, violations of the Mortgage Acts and Practices (MAP) Rule, and deceptive representations about a VA affiliation – merit more attention in our next post.  But today let’s consider how the landscape has changed in the decade since the first consumer visited donotcall.gov to declare a phone number off-limits to telemarketers.

10 Years of Do Not CallIt took years to accomplish, including workshops, periods of robust public comment, and trips to federal court to plead consumers’ case.  But on June 27, 2003, consumers voted with their fingertips and signed up for National Do Not Call.  (A now-it-can-be-told factoid: The Registry initially debuted just for people west of the Mississippi because of concerns that millions of simultaneous calls could shut down the phone system.)  Within three months, more than 50 million numbers were registered — a figure now topping 221 million.  (A picture being worth a thousand words and all, click on the infographic for The Illustrated History.)

It wasn’t always a smooth road.  Members of the telemarketing industry sued the FTC to stop Do Not Call, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rebuffed the challenge, ruling that the Registry "directly advances the government’s important interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger of telemarketing abuse.”

Not long after the Registry was open for business, the FTC filed its first lawsuit alleging Do Not Call violations.  The defendant:  the National Consumer Council, a bogus debt negotiation outfit that also falsely claimed to be a nonprofit.  Law enforcement actions — more than 100 so far — have continued, resulting in orders against 291 individuals and corporations.  The defendants haven’t been just fly-by-nighters.  Some of the FTC’s lawsuits have been against household names like DirecTV, Columbia House, Craftmatic, ADT Security Systems, Ameriquest Mortgage, and the marketer of Rascal Scooters.  Litigation against Dish Network is ongoing.

Advertisers and the telemarketers they hire haven’t been the only ones in the agency’s law enforcement sights.  The FTC also has challenged the role others (like payment processors) play in lending a hand to law violators.  We’ve even gone to court to shut down bogus DNC Registry scams.

What about robocalls?  Prepare to clutch your pearls, but one of the FTC’s first cases was against clothing retailer Talbots for failing to include the proper opt-out mechanism.  The agency moved quickly to address this intrusive form of marketing by amending the Telemarketing Sales Rule in 2009 to outlaw most forms of unwanted robocalls.  The recently-concluded Robocall Challenge is part of the ongoing effort against illegal robocalls.

Is there still work to be done?  Sure.  The FTC has already won multi-millions in civil penalties and equitable financial remedies for violations of Do Not Call and the Robocall Rule.  (None of that money goes to the FTC, by the way.)  But we’ll keep (un)plugging away until every consumer’s Do Not Call request is honored.

So tonight, if your family gets through dinner without an annoying telemarketing call, please remember that the National Do Not Call Registry — and consumers’ support of the program — made that possible.  And remember, too, some unsung heroes of Do Not Call:  the thousands of businesses across the country that honor their legal obligations by complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

 

Comments

I have signed up repeatedly to the DO NOT CALL registry, yet I was cooking fried chicken last week when I got one of these robo-calls. When I accidentally dropped the phone as I was hanging up, it hit the spatula and a glob of burning oil shot into my left eye. Now I'm blind in that eye. People are suffering because of these robo-calls. Please fix this yesterday!

I have signed up repeatedly to the DO NOT CALL registry, yet I was cooking fried chicken last week when I got one of these robo-calls. When I accidentally dropped the phone as I was hanging up, it hit the spatula and a glob of burning oil shot into my left eye. Now I'm blind in that eye. People are suffering because of these robo-calls. Please fix this yesterday!

Read this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/how-robo-call-moguls-outwitted-the-government-and-completely-wrecked-the-do-not-call-list/2018/01/09/52c769b6-df7a-11e7-bbd0-9dfb2e37492a_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_robocall-1235pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.4b73ff99dd2a FTC is impotent, President Trump wanted to cut the budget to one of the Federal goverment departments (EPA maybe?) The budget to the FTC should be cut, or the FTC should be abolished because they aren't doing jack sh%# !If nothing else is working to stop violators of the do-not-call registry, then the ring leaders should be put in jail. Then this incescent robocalling will slow down or stop.

It is 2018 and I am no longer able to answer my home phone land line. The constant robo-calls have made it impossible. Since I still need the landline to guarantee an outbound call in case of emergency (we have weak cell signal), we keep it. I've resorted to turning the ringer to low on the network of cordless phones and turning off the ringer on the bedroom phone.

Also, I'm now getting recurring robo-calls on my cell phone trying to sell me vacation packages. The calls are ID'd as coming from a phone number similar to my number which keeps changing the last 4 digits each time I'm called to avoid my efforts to tap "block this caller."

The fact that these robo systems have taken over our country's phone system is demoralizing. Also, the fact that the FTC knows of a person responsible for billions of these robo-calls which has made him mega wealthy and has to let him walk away w/only what is to him a minuscule monetary fine makes our federal government extremely weak. Much more needs to be done to discourage misuse of our nation's phone system.

why this government program DOES NOT WORK
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/how-robo-callers-outwitted-the-government-and-completely-wrecked-the-do-not-call-list/ar-BBIh8hf?li=BBnb7Kz

Is there any way to sue these people? Not just the companies (although that would be nice too), but the rather rich individuals behind this nonsense?

We also get several calls a day, in spite of being on the DNC list and are considering getting some device to stop them. But for now, or tactic is to tell our friends to say who they are for the answering machine after 4 rings, and then we pick up.

This does nothing for the millions of unauthorized calls citizens receive daily from robocallers and scammers depleting the unaware and elderly of their life savings. Your focus needs to be redirected to protecting Americans!

At this point, I think telemarketing companies should be paying my phone bill. What happened to being fined $11K for every unwanted phone call? If you actually followed through, we probably wouldn't be in trillions of dollars worth of debt. Telemarketing companies would have paid off the deficit by now.

Imagine how much budgetary money could be saved by doing away with this INeffective department!!!

Well, it’s been 5 years since this blog post where you patted yourselves on the back. The DNC list is used by scammers to actually get phone numbers to robocall. Between illegal robocalls to my home and cell phones my phone rings off the hook every single day. And don’t even get me started on the fact that the DNC list excluded political calls and charitable calls basically providing them with a free list of people to harass. Do not call should mean DO NOT CALL - everyone except friends and family and people we have given express permission to call us. Which doesn not include politicians, political parties or charities. They are also telemarketers. I’ve complained multiple times about illegal calls and you “investigate” and then tell me that there was no wrongdoing.

It would be virtually a full time job tracking the phone calls I get from Robo callers. I have tried software and everything. They just funnel through a local number. My wife is in renal failure and I have to answer these calls as it maybe a doctor's office about a appointment or prescriptions. This program is a failure. Apparently they caught the guy that wrote the program for the robo calls and pretty much let him go. Great. So let me get this straight. You can tell me I owe you an additional 21 cents on my taxes with a expensive to produce letter but we can't stop the unwanted calls. I was trying to find your annual budget but it seems to be nowhere to be found.

I can't imagine a more ineffective government agency. I get on average 20+ telemarketing calls a week that do not have any business calling me. Whatever money the federal government sets aside to have this agency active is completely wasted. It wastes my money as a taxpayer. Either stop the unwanted telephone calls or shut down this agency and save some money.

The problem is the government think it is protecting the consumers with laws it can't enforce. Too many politicians fearful from not getting their PAC money or making their annoying robocalls for their constituents to get out and vote. The proper way to handle this from the start was not an opt out like but rather an opt in list. This is the failure of Facebook. Why should consumers opt in for marketing. When you assume we don't know how to find what we want, you call us ignorant. The ultimate solution is to ban all robocalls. No one needs phone automated phone calls from politicians anymore more. Schools can call when parents opt in to get these calls/text if they care about their children.

I have been on the DNC with my family's home phone and 2 cell phones. They were registered in late 2004 & early 2005. Has the DNC program worked? No, not one iota !!!! in almost 15 years. Maybe I'm not registered? Nope, because I just verified & received an email that my numbers are registered and the dates registered. So I AM registered and no decrease in unwanted calls. Any new suggestions ???

We appreciate your frustration -- we get these annoying calls, too -- and continue to take law enforcement action against companies and individuals allegedly behind illegal robocalling. In addition, we have information for consumers about using technology to block unwanted calls.

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