Congress cuts off ‘robo-calling’

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Aug 21, 2008
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Congress cuts off ‘robo-calling’

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Aug 21, 2008
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Kai Ryssdal: Five years ago, the Federal Trade Commission set up the Do-Not-Call list. It stopped telemarketers from bugging us just as dinner was being served. It has also proved to be immensely popular. More than 150 million of us signed up. But somehow, the calls continued for a lot of us thanks to a loophole in the rules, a loophole that lets telemarketers use robo-calls to make their sales pitch. This week, the commission heard our complaints and closed the hole. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: How many times has your dinner been interrupted by a call like this?

Recorded voice on telephone: Hi, I’m calling from Advanced Informatics to let you know we provide online drafting services for $8 an hour …

I don’t care about your services. Leave me alone! That’s my reaction, and I’m not alone.

Lois Greisman: Consumers are frustrated by pre-recorded telemarketing messages.

Lois Greisman of the FTC says the agency got about 13,000 complaints. So robo-calls are banned, unless requested. The new rules won’t affect robo-calls from charities or your doctors office. And we’ll still be able to get calls like this:

Recorded voice on telephone: Hello. This is Hillary Clinton for President calling and Barack Obama isn’t telling the truth about …

But calls from consumers’ cell phones aren’t regulated. Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America says telemarketers are experimenting with interactive signs.

Susan Grant: All you’d have to do is hold your cell phone up to it and the radio signal would trigger your phone calling a number.

Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Association points out, that’s perfectly legal.

Jerry Cerasale: As long as consumer must take an action to make a phone call, I don’t see any problem with any current regulation.

At least, not yet.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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