Do Not Call Registrations Expire Next Summer
The national Do Not Call registry turns five next June and early registrants will fall off the list if they don’t re-register.
The cherished dinner hour void of telemarketers could vanish next year for millions of people when phone numbers begin dropping off the national Do Not Call list. The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the list, says there is a simple fix. But some lawmakers think it is a hassle to expect people to re-register their phone numbers every five years.
Numbers placed on the registry, begun in June 2003, are valid for five years. For the millions of people who signed onto the list in its early days, their numbers will automatically drop off beginning next June if they do not enroll again. “It is incredibly quick and easy to do,” Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “It was so easy for people to sign up in the first instance. It will be just as easy for them to re-up.”
But Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., says people should not be forced to re-register to keep telemarketers at bay. Doyle introduced legislation this week, with bipartisan support, to make registrations permanent. “When someone takes the time and effort to say ‘I don’t want these kinds of calls coming into my house,’ they shouldn’t have to keep a calendar to find out when they have to re-up to keep this nuisance from happening,” Doyle said in an interview.
The FTC built the five-year expiration date into the program to account for changes, such as people who move and switch their phone number, Parnes said. Doyle, however, points out that the list is purged each month of numbers that have been disconnected and reassigned to new customers. People can register their home and cell phone numbers or file complaints at http://www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
The registry prohibits telemarketers from calling phone numbers on the list. Companies face fines of up to $11,000 for each violation. Organizations engaged in charitable, political or survey work are exempt. Companies that have an established business relationship with a customer also may call for up to 18 months after the last purchase, payment or delivery.
To the extent Congress needs to step in to deal with telemarketing, the opt-out approach is incredibly inefficient. Why not simply outlaw the practice, period, except to people who have specifically opted in? This would, I’d wager, result in a much smaller database and make it far easier for consumers while also making it less likely that companies will be fined for accidental violation.