Integrity Matters
August 27, 2003

Like or not, telemarketers have job to do

Question: (E-064)

Dear Jim:

My telephone still rings, night after night, with pushy telemarketers. I thought some laws were passed that had put a stop to their calls. But, they still call when we are eating dinner and sometimes after we have gone to bed. Slamming the phone down is wrong, but what else can I do? My own way of treating people does not allow me to be rude, but this type of abuse is wrong. Can you help me?


You are not alone in being frustrated and irritated by their intrusive and incessant calling. The telemarketing industry has seemed to operate without any regard to the consumers. Comedians have made jokes about it and some suggest placing the receiver of the phone down, after such a caller has interrupted your evening, and saying you need to get a pencil and paper, only to ignore them until the line goes dead – wasting their time and reducing your stress by not listening to them.

Humorous as this might appear, it is not a proper response. Those who are working for a telemarketing firm need to find customers. This is how they are trying to make a living, and it isn't appropriate to make their lives miserable because their employers are making our lives miserable.

There is a better way, really an integrity-centered way, to handle unwanted phone solicitation. As you may know, on October 1, a new federal law puts into effect something called the "National Do Not Call Registry." Telemarketers face fines of up to $11,000 each time they call someone listed on the federal do-not-call listing. Anyone can get on the list by calling the Federal Trade Commission toll free at (888) 382-1222 or registering through the Web at:

One good reason to act soon is that consumers, must sign up by Sunday to be on the registry by Oct. 1. Those who sign up later will have to wait three months before their numbers appear on the registry. In the coming weeks, households can expect to be deluged with phone solicitations as telemarketers try to establish relationships before the registry goes into effect. The FTC already is getting reports that telemarketing call volume has soared. After Oct. 1, those who have not signed up for the registry can expect a flood of calls as marketers zero in on them.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the telemarketers are pleased with this new regulation. At least that is what the spokespeople are saying. They say it will greatly simplify their operations by drawing a line between those who don't want to be called and all the others, who the telemarketers will assume are eager to talk. Some of the major telemarketers support the registry because they say that they believe in the consumers' right to be left alone.

However, these same organizations have lobbyists who feel differently. The American Teleservices and Direct Marketing associations have filed lawsuits to stop the registry which they say is a violation of free speech and will ruin the telemarketing industry.

But this industry did not regulate itself. It became too intrusive and abusive of people's time at home, especially during the evening. As a result, the government stepped in with a legislative response, the Do Not Call Registry. We know that when free markets do not regulate themselves, frustrated people like us may demand external restrictions.

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