Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Has your evening quiet time or dinner been interrupted by a call from a telemarketer? If so, you’re not alone. And with many people now moving to cell phones as their primary communication device, this “telespam” can be both time consuming and financially costly.
Most people assume that having a cell phone means you’re automatically exempt from telemarketing calls. In fact, that’s not quite true. Telemarketers have found a loophole that allows them to call your cell phone anyway. Don’t worry though! You can still get rid of those annoying calls and texts.
Congress first passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991 in response to consumer concerns about the growing number of unsolicited telephone marketing calls to their homes and the increasing use of automated and prerecorded messages. The original rules require telemarketers to comply with any do-not-call request you make during a solicitation call. Telemarketers covered by the National Do-Not-Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date that you register your telephone number to remove it from their call lists and stop calling you. In June 2003, the FCC supplemented its original rules implementing the TCPA and established, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the national Do-Not-Call list.
The Do-Not-Call list has alleviated much of the problem you may experience with telespam because it specifically prohibits the use of automated dialers to place calls to cell phones. However, there is a trend currently happening where telemarketers are hiring staff to place calls rather than using automated systems.
A FCC article points out the loophole saying, “You may have received an email telling you that your cell phone is about to be assaulted by telemarketing calls as a result of a new cell phone number database; however, that is not the case. FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers.”
Keep in mind though, the Do-Not-Call list is universally applied to all numbers. So, when you request your number to be added to the list, you are covered from all types of calls, including those made manually.
Due to cell phone popularity there is another trend occurring as well. You may have received an unwanted text message, even when you don’t have a texting package on your phone! At the very least, these messages can be costly if you don’t have an unlimited text package.
There are several ways to combat this type of charge.
What to do if you receive an unwanted text message
First, make sure you scrutinize your bill every month. You may see unwarranted charges hidden within the pages.
Second, try responding to the text message by typing back the word “Stop.” Many times that will remove you from a list to which you have inadvertently been added. (Note: There is a possibility responding could make the situation worse. Make sure you follow up with step three!)
Third, call your cell phone carrier. Ask them to block text messages incoming to your phone and remove any charges you have received for unwanted texts. Be sure you have your bill in hand when placing the call.
If all else fails, file a complaint with the FCC. You may file a complaint if you receive:
- an unwanted commercial message sent to a wireless device
- a telephone solicitation made to a wireless device for which the phone number is registered on the national Do-Not-Call list
- any auto-dialed text message on your wireless device, or an unwanted commercial message to a non-wireless device from a telecommunications company or advertising a telecommunications company’s products or services.
There is no charge for filing a complaint. You can file online at: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
Everybody has technical issues. Some are interesting. Some aren’t. If you have an interesting technical problem that you want answered in a future edition of Powered Up, please drop me an e-mail. (I might even answer some of the uninteresting ones too.)
Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.