10 years of National Do Not Call: Looking back and looking ahead

To etiquette purists, the 10th anniversary dictates gifts of metal.  So to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Do Not Call Registry, the FTC presents this iron-clad guarantee:  You can count on us to continue to take action against companies that violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule, as today’s $7.5 million civil penalty — the largest ever collected in an FTC Do Not Call case — demonstrates.

The FTC’s allegations against Mortgage Investors Corporation – false money savings claims targeting current and former members of the armed forces, calls to people on the Do Not Call list, refusal to honor consumers’ requests to be placed on their entity-specific list, violations of the Mortgage Acts and Practices (MAP) Rule, and deceptive representations about a VA affiliation – merit more attention in our next post.  But today let’s consider how the landscape has changed in the decade since the first consumer visited donotcall.gov to declare a phone number off-limits to telemarketers.

10 Years of Do Not CallIt took years to accomplish, including workshops, periods of robust public comment, and trips to federal court to plead consumers’ case.  But on June 27, 2003, consumers voted with their fingertips and signed up for National Do Not Call.  (A now-it-can-be-told factoid: The Registry initially debuted just for people west of the Mississippi because of concerns that millions of simultaneous calls could shut down the phone system.)  Within three months, more than 50 million numbers were registered — a figure now topping 221 million.  (A picture being worth a thousand words and all, click on the infographic for The Illustrated History.)

It wasn’t always a smooth road.  Members of the telemarketing industry sued the FTC to stop Do Not Call, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rebuffed the challenge, ruling that the Registry "directly advances the government’s important interests in safeguarding personal privacy and reducing the danger of telemarketing abuse.”

Not long after the Registry was open for business, the FTC filed its first lawsuit alleging Do Not Call violations.  The defendant:  the National Consumer Council, a bogus debt negotiation outfit that also falsely claimed to be a nonprofit.  Law enforcement actions — more than 100 so far — have continued, resulting in orders against 291 individuals and corporations.  The defendants haven’t been just fly-by-nighters.  Some of the FTC’s lawsuits have been against household names like DirecTV, Columbia House, Craftmatic, ADT Security Systems, Ameriquest Mortgage, and the marketer of Rascal Scooters.  Litigation against Dish Network is ongoing.

Advertisers and the telemarketers they hire haven’t been the only ones in the agency’s law enforcement sights.  The FTC also has challenged the role others (like payment processors) play in lending a hand to law violators.  We’ve even gone to court to shut down bogus DNC Registry scams.

What about robocalls?  Prepare to clutch your pearls, but one of the FTC’s first cases was against clothing retailer Talbots for failing to include the proper opt-out mechanism.  The agency moved quickly to address this intrusive form of marketing by amending the Telemarketing Sales Rule in 2009 to outlaw most forms of unwanted robocalls.  The recently-concluded Robocall Challenge is part of the ongoing effort against illegal robocalls.

Is there still work to be done?  Sure.  The FTC has already won multi-millions in civil penalties and equitable financial remedies for violations of Do Not Call and the Robocall Rule.  (None of that money goes to the FTC, by the way.)  But we’ll keep (un)plugging away until every consumer’s Do Not Call request is honored.

So tonight, if your family gets through dinner without an annoying telemarketing call, please remember that the National Do Not Call Registry — and consumers’ support of the program — made that possible.  And remember, too, some unsung heroes of Do Not Call:  the thousands of businesses across the country that honor their legal obligations by complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

 

16 Comments

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Why do I get so many calls, after being on the registry for more than ten years? We get at least 8 to 10 calls a day.

" And remember, too, some unsung heroes of Do Not Call: the thousands of businesses across the country that honor their legal obligations by complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule."

Doing the right and legal thing makes them a hero? Pretty low bar BCP.

Like Dave D, I signed up years ago, was thrilled at first, and am, once again, inundated on work, home, and cell phones. The FTC should admit that the program is, for its intended purpose of protecting the average consumer, a failure. Trumpeting the rare successes on your homepage just makes you look even more out of touch.

If you need legislative help, talk about that. If you need a bigger budget, speak up. But enough with the Pollyanna routine.

My home phone and cell have been registered on the National Do Not Call List since it's enception. After a short period, the calls began to subside, then quit. It was great!

Over the years, the harrassing calls have slowly come back and are now at an all time high on both phones. For several years, I continued to file complaints on the FTC website, but quite frankly, I'm burned out on making the complaints and seeing no relief.

The successes mentioned in the article are all well and good, but it's mostly meaningless to us average taxpayers. The abuses are worse than ever. Throw in robo calls, unwanted text ads and you have a national disgrace.

It's totally out of control. I'm convinced that political pressure on the FTC is the only solution.

Seriously??? While the Bureau may be well intended and sincere in their efforts, the "Do Not Call List" is ineffective - it just does not work. On average, I get 10-12 of these calls a day and that number is increasing. Some companies have been at it for two years calling from all over the country. If I hang on the line and do nothing more than ask them what company they work for, they just hang up. I am sure some are off shore, some use burner phones, many are computer generated robocalls, etc. Even if they offer you an opt out, you will just get even more phone calls. My son doesn't even answer his home phone because of this problem - a service he is paying for and can't even use.

Ironically, I have received four calls this morning already - one while I was in the midst of writing this memo Caller I.D. Unknown 206-397-1762. I have tried blocking numbers, call backs (never a successful connection), reverse phone call look ups,etc. I once thought I had one only to discover their business address was an empty warehouse in Miami (I live in PA).

While I applaud your efforts, you need to go back to the drawing board, think outside the box, impose not only heavy fines but serious jail time. I realize there is no magic bullet but we have to do better than this!!!

I think you should be more proactive in providing both publicity on the perpetrators who have been caught and fined and an RSVP to those of us who have filed complaints. For example, I have filed many complaints against "cardholder services" and if I had not clicked on the link to the FTC on the DNC web site, I would not have known that they were fined. You should also provide more publicity about using the registry to also file a complaint and add a link to the cases completed. On the good side, thank you. I am glad to see you are making progress on catching the perps.

We are thankful for the wonderful job you are doing. We keep notice of the telescammers you have caught. It can't be easy, but you succeed.

In light of the emerging technology (Voip, predictive dialers, etc), it seems like congress needs to get involved as an additional force.

These callers are totally out of control. They call constantly. If we answer they speak, and use vulgar language. We do thank you, and hope for additional help. Best regards. Mike Z.

I have been registered with the DNC since 2005. I still receive daily telemarketing and robo calls, sometimes several each day.

While 'legitimate' telemarketers may respect the rules and honor the DNC, there are obviously many that don't. These telemarketers harass us with apparent impunity.

While the 105 'law enforcement actions' the FTC has taken over the last ten years may sound impressive, it averages out to less than one each month. This number pales in comparison to the untold millions of unsolicited, unwarranted, unwanted, privacy-invading, often abusive or obnoxious calls that are still being made to those of us who have asked not to be contacted.

While the DNC list was a good idea, it is far from being enough. We need stricter laws and rules (with tougher sanctions) that are vigorously enforced when reaching a much smaller threshold of complaints.

How a telemarketing industry can thrive in a society with so much hate and animosity directed toward them has always been a mystery to me.

I have been registered with the DNC since 2005 and still receive several unsolicited telemarketing and robocalls a day. While 'legitimate' telemarketers may respect the do-not-call list, what can be done about the other telemarketers that do not? They harass and disrupt our privacy with impunity.

While the FTC's 105 'Law enforcement actions' over the last 10 years may sound impressive, it averages out to less than one a month ... a number that pales in comparison to the untold millions of unwanted, unwarranted, unsolicited, often abusive, privacy-violating telemarketing calls made.

My phone is registered in the national DNC Registry, hell I am getting more calls from Gas and energy providers, also credit cards people more than before. When I ask them if they do not see my # listed on the DNC list one responded !!YEAH,YEAH TELL ME ABOUT IT AND HANG UP!! that leaves me wondering if this DNC program is being over ride or something of the sort.

thanks for your hard work!!

Thank you for responding every time that I have called and reported abuses. It is so wonderful to know that someone(s) are looking out for the citizen's concerns.

So what happens to that money? Im a disabled U.S. Marine and have been pounded by telemarketers, I'm on the do not call list and I haven't seen any help.

Awesome!!!

Sorry, but DNC has been rendered largely ineffective by those who call using spoofed numbers and throwaway cellphones (mostly about credit card interest rates).

(Connecticut's anti-spoofing law can't really be enforced.)

No mention in the article that the National DNC Registry was based on the CT. DNC List?
This undertaking was begun by the then State Senator Thomas Colapietro, a Democrat who co-chaired the General Law Committee.

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