We all get those robocalls and pesky junk mail. We occasionally receive that pushy telemarketer on our phone who won’t take no for an answer. I honestly feel sorry for them, because no one wants to talk to them while all the while they are just trying to make a living. What can we do about that growing pile of junk mail or those unwelcomed telemarketers? Hopefully, I can answer some of those questions today in my final post for National Consumer Protection Week.
The first thing you can do is tell companies you do business with to remove your name form customer lists they rent or sell to others. Look for information on how to opt-out of marketing lists on sales materials, order forms, and websites. You can use the services provided by the Direct Marketing Association to remove your name from most national telemarketing, mail, and email lists. Call the credit reporting agencies notification system. This will reduce the number of unsolicited credit and insurance offers you receive. All three major credit bureaus participate in this program. Lastly, under U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rules, it is illegal to send mail that looks like it is from a government agency when it is not. It is also illegal to send mail that looks like a bill when nothing was ordered unless it clearly states this is not a bill.
National Do Not Call Registry
The federal government’s Do Not Call Registry allows you to restrict telemarketing calls permanently by registering your phone number at http://www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you receive telemarketing calls after your number has been in the national registry for 31 days, you can file a complaint using the same web page and toll-free number. Contact your state’s consumer protection office to find out if your state has it’s own Do Not Call (DNC) list and how you can add your number to it.
Placing your number on this registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all of them. Calls that are still permitted include those from political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, and some organizations with which you have a relationship. Cell phone numbers can also be added to the Do Not Call Registry, but it is not necessary since telemarketers are already forbidden to call them.
Pre-recorded sales calls or robocalls are illegal. Companies cannot transmit these messages or send text messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing, to accept such messages due to the text message marketing laws. A company cannot contact you based on a prior business relationship. Pre-recorded calls may only be made to residential telephone numbers in the following cases:
- Emergency calls needed to ensure your health and safety.
- Calls that don’t include any unsolicited advertisements.
- Calls by, or on behalf of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
- Calls for which you have given prior consent.
If you receive pre-recorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to receive them, file a complaint with the FCC the website and phone number listed above.
Telemarketing Sales Calls
The FTC Telemarketing Sales rule defines what telemarketers can and cannot do when making a sales call. Callers must do these five things below:
- Provide the seller’s name
- Disclose that the call is a sales call.
- Tell you exactly what they are trying to sell.
- Disclose the total cost and other terms of the sale before you make any payment for goods or services.
- Tell you if they do not allow refunds, exchanges, or cancellations.
If a prize is involved, the caller must give you the odds of winning, inform you that no purchase is necessary, and tell you how to get instructions for entering without buying anything. It is illegal for telemarketers to misrepresent what they are offering, call before 8 am or after 9 pm, or threaten, intimidate, or harass you, or all again if you ask them not to.
This FTC rule applies even when you receive a call from a telemarketer in another state or country. It also applies when you make a call to a company in another state or country in response to a mail solicitation.
The rule generally does not apply when you call to order from a catalog or in response to an ad on television or radio, or in a magazine or newspaper. It also does not apply to solicitations you receive by fax or email. Beware that certain types of businesses, including nonprofit organizations, investment brokers and advisors, banks, and financial institutions are exempt from the rule.
You Can Opt Out
Tired of unwanted email filling up your inbox? You can opt-out of most unsolicited email lists by going to the “unsubscribe” button, usually found at the bottom of the message. Some senders make the button difficult to find, so you may have to do some searching.
In addition, the Direct Marketing Association lets you opt-out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for three years. You can register with this service for a small fee, but your registration only applies to organizations that use the associations Mail Preference Service. To register, go to http://www.dmchoice.org. If you would like to opt-out of credit and insurance offers, you can call 1-888-567-8688 or go online at http://www.optoutprescreen.com, which is managed by the major credit reporting companies.
I hope you have enjoyed this National Consumer Protection Week series as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you. Remember, beware and know your rights.