Utility Watchdog in San Diego

Federal Do Not Call List

The most effective and easiest way to prevent telemarketing calls is to register your home and cellular phone number(s) with the National Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may put your residential telephone number(s) including cellular numbers on the opt-out list. According to the FTC, registration with the Do Not Call list will reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive by 80%. You can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry two ways:

The FTC's toll-free phone number is (888) 382-1222 (TTY: (866) 290-4236).
Online registration is available at the FTC's web site, www.donotcall.gov.

If you live in a rural area, the FTC's toll-free number may not be able to verify the number from which you are calling to register. And if you live in a senior housing complex or a dormitory with a private branch exchange (PBX) system, your phone number may not be properly matched when you attempt to sign up using the FTC's toll free number. In these situations, you will have to register through the Do Not Call website instead. Telemarketers must remove the phone numbers of those who have signed up for the Registry. They have thirty days to scrub their calling lists of those numbers. If you register for the National Do Not Call Registry, you should notice a significant reduction in telemarketing calls. Telemarketers must update their lists with new registrants every month. So if you sign up today, you will notice a reduction in calls in about three months from now. Your phone number will stay on the Registry for five years - unless you ask for your number to be removed from the list, or until you change your phone number. If your number is disconnected and then reconnected, perhaps due to a payment lapse, you will need to re-register. If you are able to keep your same phone number when you move to a new location, we advise you to re-register to make sure your number is not de-listed. If your phone number is changed when you move, don't forget to register anew.

If you signed up for the Registry through the FTC, you can verify if your phone number is on the list by going to https://www.donotcall.gov/confirm/Conf.aspx. You will be able to renew your registration every five years.

The laws that were recently updated to create the Do Not Call Registry (see Federal Laws below) restrict telemarketing calls to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. States may have more restrictive time constraints for telemarketers who contact residents.

When it was originally established, the FTC's Registry only covered those industries under the jurisdiction of that agency, leaving out such industries as telecommunications companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, and "junk" faxers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has since joined the FTC's Registry to close the loophole. Intra-state telemarketers must also comply with the National Do Not Call Registry. To learn more about the FCC's ruling regarding the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), see Federal Laws below. Web: www.fcc.gov/cgb/donotcall

Local phone companies must notify customers once a year about the National Registry, including the toll-free number and website address.

Exemptions from the National Do Not Call Registry

Not all solicitation calls are covered by the Do Not Call Registry. It depends on the type of call being made. You can still be contacted by:

  • Charities
  • Survey researchers
  • Political campaigns
  • Companies with which you have a business relationship
  • Companies to which you have given written consent to remain on their calling list.

Companies with which you have an "existing business relationship" as well as their affiliates can call you within an 18-month window. And when you inquire about or apply for a service or product, that company can contact you within three months.

Charities, surveys, religious groups, and politicians. Charities, religious groups, and politicians are not covered by the Do Not Call Registry and do not have to maintain an organization-specific Do Not Call list. In addition,because survey researchers and companies making customer service calls are not requesting a contribution or selling a product or service, they are not covered by federal telemarketing laws. We advise, however, that if you are contacted by an entity that is exempt from the National Registry and does not have to maintain a company-specific do not call list, that you ask them to put you on their do not call list anyway. Many maintain do not call lists as a courtesy.

If a nonprofit group uses a for-profit marketer to call you, they are still exempt from having to comply with the Do Not Call Registry. But they must maintain a company-specific Do Not Call list that you can request your phone number be added to.

Written consent to be contacted. Are there some telemarketers you are willing to call you? If you have subscribed to the Do Not Call Registry, you can notify specific sellers in writing with your signature and your phone number that you would like to continue receiving sales calls. This will give the specific telemarketer permission to contact you until you tell them otherwise.

Consumer tip: Be aware that marketers may attempt to get written consent without your knowledge by sending solicitations or emails that release them from their obligations to not call you. Read all documents and emails before signing and sending them back to a marketer to make sure you are not inadvertently giving the company permission to telemarket you. If you receive a marketing call because you inadvertently gave written consent, ask to be placed on that company's Do Not Call list. Company-specific do not call lists are explained below.

Existing business relationships. If you have purchased a product or service or have an account with a company, that company has an "existing business relationship" (EBR) with you. You can be solicited by phone for 18 months after completing a transaction with a company or after you cancel your account even if you have previously signed up for the Do Not Call Registry. The 18-month time frame does not affect your ongoing relationships with companies. For instance, your bank or utility company can telemarket you throughout your relationship with them until you have told them to put you on their internal do not call list. You will not trigger the 18-month provision until your transaction is complete, until you cancel your account, or until you ask to be placed on the company-specific do not call list (explained below).

Affiliates. An existing business relationship also applies to certain affiliates of a company. According to the Telephone Sales Rules, the definition of an established business relationship encompasses those affiliates of a company "that the consumer would reasonably expect to be included given the nature and type of goods or services offered and the identity of the affiliate." This means that affiliates of companies with which you have an existing business relationship, such as your phone company or bank, may be able to claim the same relationship and call you with solicitations even if you have signed up for the Do Not Call Registry. (See Federal Laws below.)In general, if you have an ongoing account or an existing business relationship with a company, you may be telemarketed by its affiliates. You should only be contacted by an affiliate of a company if the name of the affiliate is similar and if it provides a similar service. (For more information about affiliate sharing of financial information, see Fact Sheet 24 at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse). If you are contacted by an affiliate, they too must comply with your request to be placed on their company's do not call list.

Inquiry or application for a product or service. According to the Telephone Sales Rules, inquiring about or applying for a service or product entitles a telemarketer to contact you for up to three months -- even if you are already listed on the Do Not Call Registry. If you call a toll-free number about a product or inquire or apply for a service on a website, your phone number is likely to be requested or captured. In such instances, you can be contacted by that company for up to three months. According to the FTC, signing up for a contest or sweepstakes is not considered an inquiry or an application and should not result in telemarketing calls from those companies unless the application indicates that by signing you have given express consent. If you receive a sales call from a company that has your phone number because you inquired or applied for a product or service, you can ask the company to put you on its internal do not call list.

Company-Specific Do Not Call Lists

In essence, there are two Do Not Call lists - the National Registry and a company's internal do not call list. Most telemarketers, even those that are exempt from the Do Not Call Registry, are still required to maintain their own company-specific do not call list. If a company that is exempted from the National Registry contacts you, you can request to be placed on the company's in-house do not call list. You can take advantage of this in-house strategy even if you do not subscribe to the National Registry.

If you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to put you on their company-specific do not call list, that company can no longer call, even if you continue doing business with them. If you request to be placed on the do not call list of a company with which you have an existing business relationship, your request will not apply to their affiliates. If an affiliate calls, you will have to request to be placed on that company's do not call list as well.

Federal and state laws allow you to take legal action against telemarketers who do not add your number to their internal do not call list and who call you back within twelve months of requesting to be placed on that list. (See Federal Laws below, 47 CFR 64.1200; 16 CFR 310)

If Your State Maintains Its Own Do Not Call List

Many states have Do Not Call laws that apply to residents of those states. According to the FCC, these laws will still apply when the state's rules are stricter than the national rules. The federal rules constitute a floor. They override all less-restrictive state Do Not Call rules. If your state maintains its own Do Not Call list, check with the appropriate state agency to learn if you should register for both the state list and the National Registry. Most states that have their own lists are merging with the FTC's National Registry. The FTC will not require states to discontinue their own Do Not Call lists once the National Registry goes into effect. If you have previously subscribed to your state's Do Not Call list, you may also need to sign up for the National Registry depending on the state law. To learn if you need to subscribe to both the state and federal Do Not Call lists, visit these web sites. If these sources are not clear, you will need to contact your state Attorney General's consumer enforcement office.

    Federal Trade Commission, 10 year Anniversary
    Direct Marketing Association's list of states with Do Not Call services,
    AARP's Stopping Unwanted Phone Calls

To learn additional information about your state's law, including whether your state has enacted stricter laws regarding telemarketing calls, contact the consumer protection office in your state, such as the Attorney General's consumer law division. A list of these agencies is found in The Consumer Action Handbook of the Federal Consumer Information Center, www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml.

Many of the recent changes in telemarketing laws are not yet clear-cut. For example, what may seem like a violation of state or federal law may not be. And there may be conflicts between federal and state laws. California law offers a good example of how a state statute differs from the national law.

California Business and Professions Code 17511 requires that certain telemarketers, such as investment firms, insurance, and financial services companies, register with the state. To obtain information on whether a specific telemarketing company is registered in California, write or call:
        California Office of the Attorney General
        Consumer Law Section
        Telephonic Sellers Program
        110 W. A St., Suite 1100
        San Diego, CA 92101.
        Telephone: (619) 645-3035.

California defines an affiliate as an entity that shares the same "name brand." Existing California law allows California businesses with fewer than 6 employees to telemarket consumers within 50 miles of the business' physical location. This law may no longer be valid given the more stringent federal benchmark.

California law mandates that state residents who inquire or apply for a product or service sold by a California business can only be contacted for 30 days after the initial contact according to California Business and Professions Code 17592. This may take precedent over the federal 90-day guidelines since it is more restrictive.

Conflicts between state and federal laws will likely be ironed out in time. According to government regulators and enforcement agencies we have contacted, these matters will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis until clear precedents are established.