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June 2002
Tired of the Telemarketer? Take Action!

I doubt you will be surprised to hear telemarketing complaints were near the top of the state’s 2001 Top Ten Complaint List. You are probably like many consumers who receive telemarketing calls during the dinner hour or at other inconvenient times and would like to know how the telemarketing calls can be stopped.
Telemarketing is a top consumer problem because of new “predictive dialing” technology that allows many consumers to be called at the same time by a computer. If you are one of the first to answer a ringing phone, you will likely hear a live telemarketer. If you are one of the slower-to-answer consumers, you will hear nothing. This is because the computer may have dialed 50 homes at one time and has only 20 telemarketers available to talk to the first consumers who answer. Of course, if you hear nothing, wait a few minutes. You will likely be called back a short time later when a telemarketer is available.
What should you do when the troublesome telemarketer calls? I advise consumers to tell the telemarketer right away that you are not interested in what they have to offer, that you want to be placed on the telemarketer’s “do not call list,” and then end the call. I know my advice is hard for many Wisconsin consumers to follow because we have been raised to be polite. In fact, we are known nationally as a “victim state” because we are more polite than our neighbors on either the East or West Coast and, as a result, are more likely to become victims. Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that the longer you stay on the line, the more likely you are to fall prey to the clever marketing tactics the telemarketer is using on you.
If the telemarketing company calls you back after you have requested to be on its “do not call list,” the telemarketer may face substantial federal and state criminal or civil penalties and you could be entitled to monetary compensation as well. I know of at least one large case during my time as Wisconsin consumer protection administrator where a dialing machine continued to call the consumer hundreds of times after the consumer requested not to be called again. The consumer received thousands of dollars in compensation with our help.
How can you minimize the telemarketing calls you receive? Beginning early this fall, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection will prepare a state “do not call list.” You will first be able to register for free through the Internet, and free telephone registrations will begin later during the year. The list will be provided to registered telemarketers who will be prohibited from calling the consumers on the list. Any violators could face substantial penalties.
Before fall, you can take an important step to reduce telemarketing calls by writing to the Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, New York 11735-9014. The Direct Marketing Association will eliminate your name from large telemarketing lists for up to five years. Many consumers have reported to me that this worked well for them.

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