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Personal Finance > Smart Spending
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A world without sales calls?
A new FTC proposal could mean the beginning of the end for telemarketing calls.
December 18, 2002: 5:26 PM EST
By Annelena Lobb, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If you're sick of having family dinners, good books and soothing baths interrupted by sales calls, some relief may be on the horizon.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Wednesday proposed an amendment to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which would create a national do-not-call list and ban out-of-state telemarketing calls to those who register their phone numbers. To enroll, consumers would call a toll-free number or sign up online. Names would stay on the list for 5 years.

 QUICK VOTE 
Do you think the FTC should create a national telemarketing do-not-call list?
  Yes, the gov't needs to rein in telemarketers.
  No, the industry can police itself.

What's more, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) might soon issue a do-not-call list of its own, providing consumers with even more comprehensive protection from unwanted calls. The FTC does not regulate certain industries, like telephone companies, and could not police nonprofits that brought telemarketing in-house, rather than using for-profit telemarketers.

An FCC regulation, however, would plug those gaps.

"If the FTC and FCC both act, the lists would block about 80 percent of the calls people receive," said Timothy J. Muris, FTC chairman.

Provided Congress approves the necessary funding (about $16 million) for an FTC list, consumers should be able to enroll in about four months. Until then, consumers should keep an eye out for "do not call" scams, in which someone calls you, claiming to represent the FTC or a "do not call" registry, and asks you for personal information, such as your bank account or Social Security number. If you receive such a call, keep your personal information to yourself and contact your state Attorney General's office or the FTC.

Once the FTC proposal gets approved, the FCC's version is expected to be close behind.

"We've had ongoing discussions with the FCC about this," Muris said. "We're optimistic as to what they'll do, but obviously, it's up to them."

Even if everything passes, however, you may still have some calls to field.

Non-profit organizations, survey calls, and political calls would still make it through, said Robert Bulmash, president of Private Citizen, Inc., a consumer group that fights the direct marketing industry. Firms that you've done business with during the past 18 months could still call you as well.

The new registry also would allow intrastate sales calls, or calls made by telemarketers located within your state. To block such calls, you'll have to pick up where the laws leave off.

Twenty-five states currently offer "do not call" lists of their own, according to the Marketing Research Association. To add your own name, contact your state Attorney General's office for consumer protection.

The FTC Wednesday discussed the possibility of merging the national list with state lists, but it can't hurt to add your name to your state list if you've got one at least for now. Your state list will allow you to block most unwanted intrastate sales calls.

"Some states will have difficulty transferring their lists to us," said Muris. "I would expect most states to use our lists and apply them to state law. But there will be a transition period where there are dual lists."

There also are many methods, already in use, for blocking the calls of telemarketers, from gadgets such as the TeleZapper to services that charge a fee for screening out such calls, like the one run by Private Citizen.

A federal list or lists would not necessarily render those obsolete, as such products might weed out many of the calls that still get through.

"Our list would be perfectly adequate for most American consumers," said Muris. "But it wouldn't necessarily replace other ways of dealing with telemarketing."

According to the American Teleservices Association, about 10 billion telemarketing calls are placed every year. Not surprisingly, studies show the majority of people who receive telemarketing calls would rather be left alone. Private Citizen reports that 84 percent of the U.S. population dislikes telemarketing calls.  Top of page




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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.