Does the Do Not Call List Really Work?

Telemarketers - those solicitors who only create smiles when they're the victims of a comedian's stand-up routine. These telephone solicitors have a knack for calling us at the most inopportune times. They interrupt meals, get us out of the shower, and wake us up on the weekends. Thankfully, now you can limit phone interruptions to people you might want to hear from. The Do-Not-Call Registry, which came into effect in 2003, is a national roster designed to keep telemarketers from pestering us at home.

Registering with the Do-Not-Call list doesn't even have to involve picking up the phone. Simply go online to www.donotcall.gov. You can register up to three phone numbers, including your cell phone. For each registered number, you will receive an e-mail confirmation. Registration for each number lasts five years, after which time you can reregister. If you aren't sure if your number has expired, you can always check online.

Once you register, it takes about three months to go into effect. Why so long when registration is instant? What happens is that telemarketers have to search the list every three months and delete any matching phone numbers. Failure to comply means risking major fines. So, even though three months may seem like a long time, it's well worth the wait.

Calling a company to inquire about, or apply for, a product or service means you've opened the door for future phone calls. After all, you initiated the first contact. Should you want to end this, just ask to be placed on their Do-Not-Call list.

Of course, you don't have to register with the Do-Not-Call registry to get companies to stop calling you. You can make a verbal request, but then you have to repeat that process with each incoming call.

So, even if you are registered, why might you still receive unwanted phone calls? Because certain organizations are exempt from these lists and can still call to solicit services or information. You can stop these calls on a case-by-case basis. If they fail to comply with your Do-Not-Call request, you can report them, and they'll be subject to heavy fines. Let's take a look at exemptions.

Organizations you already have a business relationship with. For example, if you just purchased a Sears car battery, it's legal for them to call and offer you a warranty or anything else for up to 18 months. Calling a company to inquire about, or apply for, a product or service means you've opened the door for future phone calls. After all, you initiated the first contact. Should you want to end this, just ask to be placed on their Do-Not-Call list.

Political groups. That's right, those pre-recorded political messages are perfectly legal. However, you can request they stop calling (that is, if you're fortunate enough to speak with a real live person).

Charitable organizations. It's also perfectly legal for charities to call and solicit funds. Not only is there no obligation to give, but you can also ask to be removed from their list.

Telephone Surveys. Businesses can also call your house and enlist your input on a survey. If you're not interested, politely decline and ask to be removed from their list.

Once you're on the Do-Not-Call list, it's illegal for most Telemarketers to call. In fact, you have the recourse of reporting them. Keep in mind, however, that you'll need their names and phone numbers for reporting purposes. It's actually illegal for them to refuse to identify themselves. New laws also require that the names and phone numbers of telemarketers appear on Caller IDs. Do-Not-Call complaints are entered in the "Consumer Sentinel," a secure online database which is available to hundreds of law enforcement agencies nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) manages the Registry. While they don't investigate individual complaints, your objection may help lead to an investigation and subsequent law enforcement action.

If you don't want calls from telemarketers in your future, the Do-Not-Call registry is undoubtedly your best solution. Keep in mind, however, that certain organizations can still get through. Just request they place you on their own Do-Not-Call list. Once the calls stop, you can concentrate on the things that do matter. Like getting through a nice hot meal.