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Consumers aim to hinder solicitors with Do Not Call Registry

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2013 8:09 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo illustration by Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Despite being part of the national Do Not Call Registry, residents are still prime targets for telemarketers.

Robert Van Ness Jr. keeps a running tab of the calls he has received over the years from telemarketers, and it’s about 30 pages long and continues to grow.

There have been calls offering lower interest rates on home mortgages, state-of-the-art home security systems and even cheap duct cleaning.

The 59-year-old Algonquin man doesn’t want the calls, let alone like them, and even though he has entered his phone number into the Do Not Call Registry, calls still make their way through.

“I feel like I have no power in stopping these calls,” said Van Ness, who has had the same phone number for more than 35 years. “It’s so irritating. I’m on the list, and these people still seem to get away with it.”

Van Ness documents each call and uses his list as fodder when he lodges complaints with local politicians, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office or the Federal Trade Commission.

“I’ve been told to change my phone number or to just not answer when it’s not a number I recognize,” Van Ness said. “Those options are unacceptable. It’s my phone, and I should be able to answer it when I want.”

The Do Not Call Registry is a national database where residents tired of robocalls from telemarketers can enter their home and mobile phone numbers. Once registered, companies are restricted from making solicitation calls.

Managed by the FTC, the registry is enforced by the FTC, Federal Communications Commission and state law enforcement agencies.

To date, about 78 enforcement actions have been taken against companies and telemarketers for violations, according to the FTC website. A total of 58 of those actions have been resolved with final court orders requiring payment of more than $40 million in civil penalties and $22 million in redress or disgorgement.

The FTC logs about 200,000 complaints each month from consumers tired of robocalls.

The agency’s do-not-call list has decreased the number of unwanted calls for many consumers, but commission officials have acknowledged that new technology has allowed some unwanted calls to get through to those who do not want them.

Locally, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan this month reached a settlement in a lawsuit against a Lincoln-based company that placed numerous telemarketing calls to consumers registered on the list.

The company will be barred from future violations of the registry and must train its telemarketing employees on guidelines, as well as maintain records that will be monitored by the Attorney General’s Office.

The national registry was created in 2003, and telephone numbers placed on the registry now remain permanent due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008.

“Prior to 2003, I can certainly remember the countless phone calls we got at dinnertime,” said Scott Mulford, spokesman for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. “It started a groundswell to do something about it, which state and government officials eventually did.”

The registry is free to consumers and doesn’t require repeat enrollment. Telemarketers have 31 days from the date a person registers to stop calling.

However, under federal and state law, some businesses and organizations still can call numbers on the registry.

That includes calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities and telephones surveyors, as well as companies with which a person has an existing business relationship, or those to whom a person has provided written permission to receive their calls.

If a resident asks a company they have an existing business relationship with to place their number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor that request.  

“I think most people would agree that the results from the registry have been successful,” Mulford said. “There are a lot fewer interrupting calls being made.”

To register, verify registration or file a complaint, visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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