By CRISTIN REECE
Ten years and more than 200 million subscribers later, the National Do Not Call Registry is still making strides in keeping telemarketers — especially the robotic ones — out of consumers' hair.
The National Do Not Call Registry, managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), helps limit the number of telemarketing calls made to both cell phones and land lines. Once a phone number is registered, telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date the number was registered to stop calling.
“We created the National Do Not Call List to put consumers in charge and reduce unwanted and intrusive calls from telemarketers,” former FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris, said in an official statement published at the Bureau of Consumer Protection's Web site. Muris directed the initiative. “Ten years later, with 221 million American consumers registered, it is one of the agency’s most recognized consumer protection achievements.”
Register a cell phone or a land line phone number at www.donotcall.gov. Registered numbers do not expire and registration is free.
"Placing your number on the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all," the Federal Trade Commission's Web site states. "Because of limitations in the jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request."
And the FTC takes the registry's promise extremely seriously.
Last month, the FTC announced on its Web site Mortgage Investors Corporation, one of the country’s leading refinancers of veterans’ home loans, will pay $7.5 million for calling consumers whose numbers are on the Registry — the largest civil penalty garnered in the Registry's history.
The Mortgage Investors case is the 105th Do Not Call enforcement action the FTC has reported since 2004. Since the Registry's inception, the FTC has lawsuits against 298 companies and 234 individuals, and received court ordered restitution or disgorgement worth more than $741 million and $126 million in civil penalties.
Despite the FTC's success with the registry, officials said telemarketing robocalls are still a problem that could cause consumers "significant economic harm by peddling fraudulent goods and services.
According to a release published on the commission's Web site, officials testified yesterday before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance, the FTC has been aggressively fighting the problem of illegal commercial robocalls through "vigorous enforcement of the requirements of the Do Not Call program and seeking to spur innovative technological solutions to block unlawful telemarketing calls."
“The 10-year-old Do Not Call Registry remains enormously successful in protecting consumers against unsolicited calls from legitimate telemarketers," Lois Greisman, associate director for the agency’s Division of Marketing Practices stated during testimony. "But as technology changes and fraudsters exploit those changes, we must remain agile and creative. The FTC will do this through continued aggressive law enforcement, working to stimulate innovative technological solutions to block illegal robocalls, engaging in ongoing consumer education, and working with Congress to protect consumers."