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FTC puts smackdown on telemarketing calls

December 1, 2008 | 10:01 am

Telemarketing As of today, you have a new weapon against telemarketers. Federal Trade Commission rules that just took effect say that telemarketing calls that are recorded in advance -- also known as robocalls -- from businesses or charities must include ways to opt out of future calls.

You're already supposed to be protected from unsolicited commercial calls if you're on the national Do Not Call registry, but calls from businesses with which you have a relationship (you've bought something from them, inquired about their products or services, etc.) were permitted. Also, calls from legitimate charities were allowed.

They still are. But under the new rules, a prerecorded message has to give the consumer a way to cut off the business or charity call -- and ban future calls from the same source -- by pressing a particular number or saying a word.

According to FTC, there is no universal number or word that all telemarketers must use, but the opt-out information must be stated early in the call. According to the rule, a call must begin with, in this order, the identity of the caller, the purpose of the call and instructions for opting out.

Consumers can report telemarketers that violate the new rules by visiting the FTC's Complaint Assistant website or calling 877-FTC-HELP.

If the recorded call is left on an answering machine, the message must include a toll-free number the consumer can use to stop future calls.

The new rule applies only to residential numbers -- you can still be bugged by commercial or charity calls at the office. Also, robocalls for political purposes are still permitted to all landline phones and are not restricted by the new rules. Thank goodness we can still get those calls from out-of-work politicians pushing their candidates.

-- David Colker

Photo: Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

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