Telemarketers and Do Not Call Lists

(Thoughts by Clifford Neuman - 6/26/02)

One problem with proposed anti-spam and telemarketing legislation and regulations is that it is too difficult to collect penalties from violators. One way to address this problem with telemarketers is to automate the process of filing and adjudicating complaints from the recipients of such calls.

This could be accomplished with legislated changes to calling rates to add a special $5 fee for prohibited telemarketing calls to numbers that have been placed on the national or state do not call lists. Once a consumers number has been added to such a list for a requisite number of days, their phone would have a new option added that allows them to flag a call as a telemarketing call. This would work similar to the call trace or call return (*69) options.

Once a caller has place more than a set number of calls (e.g. 10) during a month where the caller flagged the call as a prohibited telemarketing call by dialing this code after the call completes, the caller would automatically be charged $5 for each such call (including the calls so flagged before the threshold is reached). The recipient of the call would received a $4 credit on their next phone bill, and the phone companies initiating and completing the call would each collect $0.50.

Since this option is only enabled on calls to numbers on the do not call list, only prohibited calls are flagged. Organizations that are exempt from the regulation (personally, I don't think any should be, but the regulations do create exceptions for political parties and telecommunications companies), would similarly be exempt from the special tariff. Also, anyone charged for calls violating the rules would have an option to dispute the determination by demonstrating the prior established relationship with the number called, but the burden would be upon them to demonstrate why the call was legitimate.