AP NEWS

What you can do when telemarketers violate Do Not Call list: Money Matters

September 9, 2018

What you can do when telemarketers violate Do Not Call list: Money Matters

Q: Probably like many of your readers, my telephone number is on the federal Do Not Call list. But, I am still bombarded with calls from businesses that I do not have a business relationship with. I think that I saw a commercial that said that a violator of the Do Not Call list can be sued for damages. Is this true? If so, how does one get involved? J.S., Berea

A: You can file a lawsuit against a violator of the Do Not Call Registry in small claims court. But filing that suit costs money and takes a bit of legwork.

After you’ve been on the Do Not Call list for 31 days, you can report unwanted sales calls. You need to have a log of the number the caller called from, and the time and the date. Clearly, the more violations, the worse it looks for the caller.

However, you’re honestly better off using your time and energy to file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates this issue. The FTC can and does go after companies and individuals that violate the Do Not Call list, as well as those who make robocalls, which are illegal in their own right, even if you’re not on the Do Not Call list.

To file a complaint about a Do Not Call list violation, go to complaints.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.

The FTC absolutely pursues violators. Again, the more complaints against a company, the more ammunition the FTC has to file action against the company in federal court. The FTC has succeeded in cases against companies that violated the Do Not Call list, which started in 2003. And it has succeeded against companies that violated the law that prohibits robocalls --  prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers -- unless permission from the consumer has been given in writing. The law banning robocalls began in 2009.

The FTC has obtained orders for hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties and settlements over the years. The money generally goes to the U.S. Treasury, except in cases where there is fraud, and restitution can be paid to the victims.

The FTC says officials realize “how annoying” unwanted sales calls are, especially when they’re in violation of one or more laws.

“Do Not Call and robocall complaints are the most frequent complaints the FTC receives from consumers,” said Ian Barlow, Do Not Call Program Coordinator for the FTC.

The FTC averages more than 500,000 complaints per month about unwanted calls. “The FTC recognizes this is an important issue for consumer privacy and combatting fraud,” Barlow said. To help protect consumers, the FTC over the years has filed 139 lawsuits against 459 businesses and 371 individuals, resulting in actual collections exceeding $121 million.

Consumer complaints are vital, Barlow said, because they give the FTC  information about trends in illegal telemarketing. “It is important for consumers to report unwanted, abusive, or fraudulent calls,” he said. “It’s easy too. Consumers can file a complaint in just a few minutes at donotcall.gov — that is the same website where consumers can register their numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.”

The FTC encourages consumers to:

Block calls with software or apps or help from the phone company, or at least don’t answer unknown calls. Avoid engaging with a telemarketer. Just hang up. Don’t push buttons. Don’t try to be funny. Just hang up. Remember that if companies are willing to break the law by violating the Do Not Call list or robocall ban, they’re not reputable companies that you want to do business with any way. They may be downright scam artists. If it’s available, write down the phone number of the caller, and the date and time of the call. Submit a complaint to the FTC. (Go to complaints.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222)

The FTC also uses phone numbers submitted through complaints to create logs that are given each day to phone companies and others in the industry to try to keep up with numbers that software try to should block.

For tips on blocking calls, go to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-stop-unwanted-calls

If you’re determined to take legal action on your own, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act provides remedies for consumers to file private actions, said Kate Hanson, spokeswoman for the Ohio attorney general’s office. Information can be found at 47 U.S.C. §227(c)(5).  

The attorney general’s office also has pursued cases under the TCPA, she said. “For example, in a joint action with other agencies, we obtained a judgment against Dish Network in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois for violations of the TCPA and Ohio consumer protection laws,” Hanson said, noting that Dish has appealed.   

Copies of some final judgments from privately litigated cases as well as judgments from cases filed by the attorney general are available in the Online Public Inspection File, which can be accessed at https://opif.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/. (Under “Search OPIF,” in the “Category” box, search for “Telephone Consumer Protection Act.”)  

AP RADIO
Update hourly