Friday, May 16, 2008

Do Not Call Registry - The Exception Trap for Consumers

In these difficult economic times, sales have slowed and a number of marketers are desperate to make contact with consumers. Many consumers feel secure that the Do Not Call Registry will protect them from these telemarketers. In fact, the Registry is responsible for a drastic decrease in the number of vexing calls people receive at their residences. Nevertheless, consumers must be proactive and cautious to ensure that the next time the telephone rings it's not the dreaded telemarketer.

As many know, the National Do No Call Registry began as a result of complaints from Americans who were harassed with annoying telephone calls from telemarketers selling anything from the hottest security to the newest over the counter product. All too often, these calls were received during quite family time. The Do Not Call Registry gave individuals the right to opt out of receiving sales calls by calling the government or registering on line at The Registry covers personal landlines and cell phones. Once you register with the government, your number remains on the list permanently. If you obtain a new number, you just have to register that number. After you register, It may take up to 31 days for telemarketing calls to cease


As a few have learned, the Registry does not prevent political organizations and pollsters from contacting residential telephones. In fact, Congress specifically carved out exceptions for them.
Charities are also allowed to call numbers on the Registry. In addition, if you want to receive calls from certain businesses, you can remain on the Registry and grant exceptions in writing to the businesses.

The Consumer Trap

Despite recent amendements to the laws, commercial telemarketers have found a way around the do not call ban. One popular way is to invite unsuspecting people to sign up for sweepstakes or raffles for items such as lunches. All too often, the fine print places people on marketers' call lists. Indeed, on one Maryland's consumer site, it specifically warns against contest entry forms where telephone numbers are requested. In addition, the Maryland Attorney General cautions that when completing entry form contests read both sides of the form. See

Also, although Congress carved out an exception for the telephone survey, it does not allow the pollsters and consumer researchers to do an end run around the law in an attempt to sell their goods and services in the guise of taking a survey.

One of the most popular ways to circumvent the law is to establish a business relationship with consumers. This can be done by having an account with a bank or credit card company, purchasing merchandise, or having a product delivered to your home. Once companies establish these business relationships, they may call up to 18 months after the last purchase, delivery or payment, unless you ask the entity not to call again. Other ways to establish business relationships with companies are to make an inquiry to a company about their product or servie or submit an application.

Protecting Yourself

1. Register your number with the Do Not Call Registry;

2. Keep your phone number to yourself;
(including removing them from your checks)

3. When called by a company you no longer want to receive telemarketing calls from tell them to put you on their do not call list;

4. Use *67 before calling businesses;

5. Screen calls and hang up on auto-dialers;

(Suggestions 2-5 came directly from the Maryland Attorney General)

Regardless of the source of the calls, once you tell a telemarketer to stop calling, the company must honor your request. If it fails to do so, it may be subject to a fine. To make a record of your verbal request, however, you should follow up with a letter sent certified mail/return receipt or if you can legally do so, tape record the conversation.

For New York, Maryland, DC, and Georgia residents, in addition to contacting the applicable agency to complain, you can also contact the FTC or bring your own lawsuit against the offending company.

1. New York

2. Maryland

3. Washington, D.C.

4. Georgia
(located under hot topics - "Do Not Call Law")

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Everyday Person's Opinion

This election season has certainly sparked the interest of young, old, rich, and poor. The interest in the outcome of the race is like no other seen in this country's history. Fortunately, those who call themselves journalists don't have a monopoly in publishing their opinions. In fact, I'm a little bit tired of the main stream media's (MSM's) self important tirades and attempts to force us to think a certain way. If you want to be entertained, informed, and frightened go to the web. No, I'm not suggesting that you take to heart the articles on the web from the MSM. In fact, they're no better than what you see on television or read in the newspaper. The treasure lies in the wild west of the comment sections for the everyday folk.

The best site to explore by far is the Huffington Post where there is something for everyone, news, politics, entertainment, and business. Moreover, there is little censorship or time limits to post your comments. The Politico comes in a distant second. However, because it tends to attract the conservative crowd, it is spattered with overstated self appointed "patriots," and offensive language about women and minorities. Sometimes, it's worth going there to see how far the country needs to evolve.

Although CBS News, New York Times, Washington Post, and ABC News have decent web comment sections, they are heavily censored and have time limits for responses. MSNBC and CNN are by far the worst of the lot when it comes to outside opinions. I guess they're thin skinned and don't care to be challenged and criticized in public.

Getting back to the Huffington Post, the discussion of political events is far better than the fare provided by the "experts" on the talking head shows on Sunday (I stopped watching those shows a few weeks ago because I couldn't stand it any longer). For example, for the last few days, there has been a heated discussion on Clinton's nuclear option. This option would entail using her cronies on the DNC rules committee to seat all of Florida and Michigan delegates at the convention. Of course, all of the delegates would be for her. This post was published on May 4 in the afternoon. As of May 6 at 1:00 p.m. there is over 400,000 views and 6,000 comments on the topic. Some of the comments are pretty harmless either way. However, you get a smattering of comic writers that would do quite well on the Daily Show with John Stewart. On the other hand, the jokes comparing Seven Belles and Clinton have been beaten to death.

So, if you are interested in following the election process in an informative and entertaining way, think about heading to the wild world of common folk commentary. It's fun and sometimes addictive. More importantly, it forces you to think and question what "journalists" put out on the air and print for public consumption.