How To Stop Telemarketers
From Calling You

It's a little-known fact that there is a Federal law that regulates telemarketer activities. Some telemarketers don't even know they're subject to those provisions. You can use this law to stop them from calling you. There are civil penalties for telemarketing companies that don't follow the law, and the penalties are to be paid to the consumer (that's you).

First and foremost, you should understand that you'll never get rich doing this. Your two motives should be to get them to stop calling you and to make it expensive for them to stay in business.

Simply hanging up on telemarketers doesn't hurt them at all, but putting this law to use can. If even a modest fraction of consumers made telemarketers jump through the hoops required by this law, telemarketing would no longer be a profitable undertaking.

Disclaimer

This is a lay person's overview of the law. It does not pretend to be a thorough explanation of the law, nor does it attempt to offer legal advice. If you intend to make full use of this law, you should first consult an attorney. However you choose to use this information is with your full responsibility and at your own risk.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The Federal law that governs telemarketers is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) 47 USC Section 227. Details are provided in the Code of Federal Regulations 47 CFR Section 64.1200.

Among other things, this law states that telemarketers must keep a "do-not-call" list. When consumers request that their names be placed on that list, the company is barred from calling them again for a period of 10 years.

The law also provides that:

  • These calls must be made only during the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM. Any telemarketing call made outside of these hours is a violation.
  • Any company engaged in telemarketing must provide a written copy of their do-not-call policy, on demand.
  • The company is also required to volunteer either their address or phone number during the call. (This provision seems to be uniformly ignored by telemarketers.)

Each violation (there can be several in one phone call) can result in a civil penalty of $500.00, payable to you. If a call is made to intentionally harass, the penalty can be tripled.

By the way, two classes of callers are exempt from the law: tax-exempt charities and public opinion polls.

What To Do When You Get a Call

You can play this game either of two ways:

  1. If your time is limited, and all you want to do is decrease the number of calls you receive, then each time they call, just say, "Please put me on your do-not-call list." Most telemarketers know about the Federal law that governs their procedures, and they do observe it. Just saying this one line will produce a remarkable decrease in the number of calls you receive.
  2. If you want to be able to pursue a legal claim against any company that calls more than once, then you must keep records, as described below.

Keeping a Record of Telemarketing Calls

The best way is to keep a phone log by each phone. When the call begins, the person usually gives their name and the name of the company. Let them continue talking while you write down the names. If you're not sure of the info or spelling, interrupt the person and ask for the information again. Be sure to also note the date and time of the call.

If you know it's a local company, and you know you can find their phone number and/or address, you don't need to ask for it. If they don't volunteer it, it's a violation (as noted above). If you prefer, you can ask for that info, but then you're letting them off the hook for that one provision of the law.

Then ask them if they have a do-not-call list. If they seem familiar with the concept, simply ask to be put on the list. In this case, that would be the end of call #1.

If the operator doesn't know about a do-not-call list, ask to speak to a supervisor. Do not take "No" for an answer -- he's not here right now, she's too busy to talk to you, etc. There must be a supervisor on duty and you have a right to register a complaint if you feel the company is not following the provisions of the TCPA. Get the name of the supervisor, and write it down.

Ask the supervisor whether the company does, indeed, maintain a do-not-call list. If the supervisor does know about it, request that your name be placed on the list. Otherwise, there are immediate grounds for a claim.

How to Handle a Violation

If you think a company is in violation of the law and that you have evidence to prove that, you can try to get them to pay you for the violations. Here are some tips on receiving funds from telemarketers.

Further Information

More information can be obtained at one's local Office of Consumer Affairs or State's Attorney General.

Private Citizen is an organization founded by Bob Bulmash. He and his organization have been featured on numerous national news programs. One such story on Dateline NBC is where Cathy's mom first learned about this law and started on her crusade, and now she's been featured on Good Morning America and several other news programs!


tips on receiving payment - 47 USC §227 - 47 CFR §64.1200


Last updated on January 28, 1999.


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