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Should carriers do more to stop the rise of telemarketing calls?

Some believe that wireless carriers are to blame for allowing telemarketing companies to continue harassing customers.
By
December 1, 2014
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Since 2007, a Canadian company called Primus Technologies has offered free blocking of telemarketing calls. In fact, two thirds of Primus customers say they like the telemarketing program, while 87 percent of those customers say that the drop in telemarketing calls is why they stay with Primus.

As Bangor Daily News reports, those in the U.S. would love such a program but will likely not see such a consumer-friendly service in their lifetime. While the Federal Trade Commission has tried to crack down on telemarketing abuse, they still receive almost 200,000 complaints a month.

One reason for the large amount of monthly complaints can be found by just reading the Federal Do Not Call restrictions. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress in 1991, it’s illegal for almost any business to solicit consumers by phone if they’ve registered on the Federal Trade Commission’s national “do not call” list. But these rules don’t apply to charities, poll takers, political groups or any business that you have made a purchase/delivery/payment at within 18 months. Therefore, telemarketing companies are now turning to nonprofits to solicit calls.

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Some believe that wireless carriers are to blame for allowing telemarketing companies to continue harassing customers.

“At a recent U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said the technology for screening such calls is available. She urged ‘more pressure on the phone carriers to participate in solving this problem.'” – Bangor Daily News

Others believe that the federal government is not allowing wireless carriers to properly address the issue.

“An executive with the U.S. Telecom Association, however, testified his members are bound by law to complete all calls. He said they may not be able to employ call screening or filtering software. A spokesman for the mobile phone industry said wireless carriers are concerned about “overreaching” and blocking legitimate calls.” – Bangor Daily News

Now, attorney generals from 38 states are asking the FTC to update and change federal rules about telemarketing rules. Specifically, they are asking, amongst other things, that the FTC:

  • Ban preacquired account information, meaning consumer consent is needed for any transaction.
  • Clarify the “negative option” in telemarketing. The attorneys general argue a consumer’s silence or failure to take action and opt out of a certain deal does not necessarily mean a customer agrees with that deal.
  • Require telemarketers to keep call records. These could help the attorneys general with enforcement actions.
  • Ban or restrict several ways of paying, including money transfers.

According to the results of a Harris Poll, the primary reason that wireless customers block calls on their smartphones is to avoid telemarketers. Second place is to avoid an ex-girlfriend.