Making the Most of State and Federal Do Not Call Lists
Guess Who's Calling at Dinner
Ever had a lovely dinner with the family interrupted by an unwanted telemarketing call? If so, then you are just like many consumers in Tennessee and nationwide that have pondered the problem of how to stop unwanted sales pitches from telemarketers. Historically, there have been mandates at the federal level under the Telemarketing Sales Rule requiring telemarketers to stop calling consumers once consumers request that the telemarketer place them on that company's internal no-call list. If a telemarketer does not honor that request and calls the consumer again, then that company is liable under the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Many consumers, however, did not believe such a remedy was adequate; consumers did not want to endure the initial telemarketing interruption and felt that it was not fair for consumers to have to ask each telemarketing entity not to call them again. This dissatisfaction led to heightened regulation of the telemarketing industry, including Do Not Call legislation in dozens of states.
Tennessee's Do Not Call Program legislation was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1999. In January of 2000, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority began consumer registration and by August 1, 2000, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority began enforcing the Tennessee Do Not Call Program. State lists such as Tennessee's have successfully decreased unwanted telemarketing calls to consumers. In the Fall of 2003, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began implementing a National Do-Not-Call Registry for consumers in every state. The Tennessee Do Not Call List and the national program have both proven to be effective tools for consumers in taking the telemarketing horse by the reins. Registration is easy and free.
Below are some of the most frequently asked-about issues regarding the lists:
- Calling times for telemarketers are still 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. If a telemarketer covered by the Tennessee and federal laws makes a telemarketing call to a consumer outside those time limits, a violation has occurred.
- Registration on the national and Tennessee Do Not Call list is valid for consumers for 5 years. There is no need to re-register during that period unless the consumer's phone number changes.
- There is no cost to consumers to register on either list. Accordingly, we recommend that consumers register at both places. Consumers can even list cellular phone numbers on the national registry.
- The National Do-Not-Call Registry does not cover entities such as banks, telephone companies, airlines, insurance companies, credit unions, charities, political campaigns or political fundraisers. Consequently, even though a consumer may have registered at the federal level, they may continue to experience calls from these entities. Both the Tennessee and federal programs have an exemption for telemarketers with whom the consumer has a prior existing business relationship. The main difference in the two exemptions is that the length of prior existing relationship exemption for the Tennessee Registry is 12 months, and the Federal Registry is 18 months. So, if a consumer has done business with a company in the last 12-18 months, they might receive a call from that company despite their registration on the federal and state lists.
- It is important to note, however, that regardless of the exemptions listed above, if a consumer is called by a company and they do not want to be contacted by that company again, the consumer can ALWAYS request that the company place that consumer's name and number on an internal do not call list which all companies are required to maintain. That company must honor that consumer's request or face a telemarketing violation if the consumer is contacted again by the company regardless of whether it is a charity, a political organization, or other exempt entity.
- The federal Do Not Call Program requires telemarketers to "scrub" their lists on a quarterly basis. This means that telemarketers are only required to update their federal do not call list every three months. This means longer waiting periods for consumers who have registered before they actually begin to receive fewer telemarketing calls. The Tennessee Do Not Call List requires telemarketers to scrub their lists every month, resulting in a quicker decrease in telemarketing calls to that consumer.
Tennessee Do Not Call Program:
- Register through the Tennessee Regulatory Authority website or by calling 1-877-TRA-7030 from your home phone.
The Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) has devoted much time and staff resources to our successful state Do Not Call program which was enacted in 1999. Information on Tennessee's Do Not Fax Program, which began on July 1, 2003, can be found on the Do Not Fax section of the TRA website.
National Do-Not-Call Registry: