Submission Number: 00055
Received: 1/28/2011 5:31:46 PM
Commenter: Mark Donovan
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: 16 CFR Part 310: Telemarketing Sales Rule
Attachments: No Attachments
Valid caller ID is helpful in screening unwanted calls. However, the underlying problem - the lack of accurate disclosure of the identity of callers and spoofed caller ID - isn't limited to telemarketing calls covered by the TSR.
Despite the FTC do-not-call registry, telemarketing calls I receive use unavailable or out-of-area caller ID, or numbers such as 623-000-0000. A few telemarketers simply ignore the do-not-call list and are blatant in their noncompliance.
Telemarketers and especially debt collectors (I realize the TSR includes exceptions for various classifications of callers) use loopholes to avoid accurately revealing their identities and the true purpose of their calls.
As examples of problems with the TSR, telemarketers claim to be conducting a survey or to be calling a prior customer as a means to circumvent the TSR. Together with invalid or unavailable identification of the caller, consumers are without any method to stop or report these calls.
Another tactic used by telemarketers and debt collectors is to ask for a individual by name, yet rather than identify who they are, the caller will say, for example, "This is John." The caller will not disclose accurate business name, address or telephone number. Instead, when pressed for such information, the caller hangs up.
I assert that those telemarketers who do not comply with the current TSR will not be deterred by additional requirements. The current TSR works as well as it ever will to stop unwanted calls by legitimate telemarketers.
The continuing problem of unwanted calls must be dealt with outside of the constraint of the TSR. Legitimate survey and charity callers remain a problem in that they continue to call until told to stop. I assert that the do-not-call list should apply to all such calls regardless of the purpose of the call.
Has the FTC has no jurisdiction outside telemarketing? Certainly the right of consumers to reject unwanted calls is an overriding consideration regardless of the purpose of unsolicited calls. In this context, the problem of unwanted telephone calls goes beyond telemarketing and invalid identification of callers.
Consider the increasing problem of unwanted political calls and other "robo" calls. Political callers are especially problematic in that it is often impossible to identify the caller - only that the caller has a political agenda and insists on using receivers' telephone service to deliver a message. These "robo" calls, often from blocked caller ID or "out-of-area" numbers, repeatedly dial until the call is answered. Just as frequently, the call is repeated if the recipient hangs up before the recorded message is complete. If there is any valid identification of the caller, it is only revealed after the entire political statement is delivered.
To the extent that the FTC can enforce rules that require valid caller ID and accurate caller identification for all unsolicited calls that use consumers' telephone services to the callers' benefit, such extended rules would be beneficial. Only when recipients can reliably identify unwanted calls, can the unwanted calls be rejected or stopped. Currently, unsolicited callers know this and are abusing technology and services to circumvent attempts to reject or stop unwanted calls.
The exceptions to the current TSR have resulted in the proliferation of a new classification of unwanted, unsolicited calls, and to the continued abuse of consumers' telephone services. Ultimately, it is the telephone call recipient, not the caller, who decides whom is permitted to use telephone services. It is unfortunate that callers use anonymous caller identification, "robo" call harassment, and other tricks to circumvent consumers' basic right of to reject unwanted calls. Currently, this is the extent of the unwanted and unsolicited telephone call problem.