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
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