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Government LawyersThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers

April 2014, vol. 15, no. 3

How to block unsolicited or unwanted telephone calls (revisiting the Do Not Call Registry)

Telemarketers have been for years contacting consumers on their home telephones soliciting business for their companies. When consumers got fed up with the annoying solicitation/harassment on their home phones, Congress eventually adopted “The Do Not Call Registry Act of 2003.” Most of you are aware of this Act. However, it is important to review some of the provisions of the Act, as it has changed somewhat since it was first adopted.

As originally created, one could register a phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. This registration was good for five years. Upon the expiration of the five-year period, the consumer was required to renew the number(s), otherwise the number(s) were released from the do not call registry, and telemarketers were again able to contact the phone numbers.

The other question was whether the registration applied to cell phone numbers. Now both landline and cell phone numbers are eligible for registration on the National Do Not Call Registry. Consumers may register up to three phone numbers, landline or cell, in one application. Once registered, telemarketers have up to 31 days before they have to discontinue contact with the number. After 31 days, they are barred from contacting those properly registered phone numbers.

However, there are exceptions. Organizations calling for charitable donations, political organizations or telephone surveyors are exempt from the “do not call” requirements. Further, debt collectors can contact you if you owe a debt to their client. Also, if you purchased something from a company, you have established a “business relationship” with that company that allows the company to contact you even though you’re on the do not call list. This loophole allows the company to contact you up to 18 months after your last purchase, delivery or payment involving the company. However, if you contact the company directly to discontinue calls; they are required to honor your request.

The registration of phone numbers is now good until your number is disconnected and reassigned to someone else, or until you choose to remove the phone number from the registry. The previous five-year duration no longer applies to registered numbers. It is a good practice to verify that your phone numbers are still registered with the Registry. In order to verify your phone number(s), go to the Web site, <www.donotcall.gov>. Once there, click on “verify a registration.” You’ll be prompted to include your phone number and e-mail address. The registry will e-mail you with information as to whether you are successfully registered and the date you registered your phone number(s).

The National Do Not Call Registry is managed and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is expressly authorized to implement and enforce the Do Not Call Registry pursuant to the Act. If there is a violation of the Act, you may file a complaint with the FTC to prosecute the offending organization for violation of the registry provisions. By the way, recorded messages or “robocalls” are also a violation of the Act whether or not the number is on the do not call registry. Penalties subject the violator to a civil fine of up to $16,000 per violation. Complaints may be filed through the website referenced above.

Lastly, another way to block specific phone calls, which may not be subject to the Do Not Call Registry Act, is as follows. (This procedure applies to use of a specific phone number calling an iPhone 4 or higher).

1. Go to the phone app and touch or click on “recent calls.”

2. Scroll down or up to the number you want to block

3. Touch or click the “i” in the right hand margin of the number you want blocked.

4. Scroll down to “block this caller” and touch that selection.

5. The number is now blocked and will remain blocked until you go in and “unblock” the number. ■


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