Understanding Your Telemarketing Rights

How do you know if a telemarketing call is a scam? That friendly voice on the phone may belong to an honest person who is just trying to make a sale or a crook who wants to trick you out of your money.

This guide from Consumer Federation of America provides basic information to help you know your telemarketing rights and recognize when a telemarketing call might be a scam. Generally, these rights apply when someone is calling to try to sell or rent something to you or when a for-profit telemarketer calls  asking for a donation on behalf of a charity. This guide does not describe all of consumers’ telemarketing rights, just the main ones. It also does not include businesses’ rights when they get telemarketing calls, which are more limited. The links in the guide will take you to sources for more detailed information.

 


 

Your Do Not Call Rights

  • You can stop unwanted sales calls by putting your number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone that you wish to register, or go to www.donotcall.gov.
  • On the website you can register more than one phone number at the same time.
  • You can put cell phone numbers as well as landline numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • In addition to making sure that they don’t call numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, companies must keep their own “no call” lists. Even if you don’t put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry, you always have the right to tell a company “put my number on your no call list.”
  • Learn more: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0052-stopping-unwanted-sales-calls
  • Are you getting calls that violate your Do Not Call Rights? Stop – it’s a danger sign of fraud! Legitimate telemarketers follow the rules. Scammers don’t. Don’t do business with any company that is calling you when it shouldn’t.

Do Not Call Rights Do not Apply to

  • Political calls, calls made by charities, and calls to take surveys are not covered.
  • However, if a telemarketer is hired by a charity to call seeking donations, the telemarketer must keep a “no call” list and you can ask for your number to be put on that list to stop further calls on behalf of that charity.
  • Calls from a debt collector.
  • Putting your number on the National Do Not Call Registry does not stop a company from making sales calls to you if you have an “established business relationship” with it or you gave it written permission to call. An established business relationship means that you purchased or rented something from the company within the last 18 months or you asked it about a product or service within in the last 3 months. But remember, you can stop further sales calls from a company any time you wish, even there is an “established business relationship”  or you gave it written permission to call you, by simply saying “put my number on your no call list.”
  • Some states have their own Do Not Call registries. Check with your state or local consumer protection agency

More You Should Know

  • The National Do Not Call Registry is a free government service for consumers.
  • It takes up to 31 days from registering a phone number for companies to remove it from their telemarketing lists.
  • When you put your number in the National Do Not Call Registry, it stays there until and unless you remove it. But if your number changes, you’ll need to register the new number if you want to have the Do Not Call protections for it.
  • Pay attention when you fill out applications and order forms to make sure that you’re not agreeing to get sales calls if you don’t want them.
  • You can say “put my number on your no call list” over the phone – your request does not need to be in writing. Keep a list next to the phone and note the company name and the date that you made the request. That way you’ll have the information you need to report violations if the company calls again.
  • It never hurts to ask – even though charities that make their own calls, political organizations and pollsters are not covered by the Do Not Call rules, if you ask them not to call you again, they may agree to honor your request.

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Your General Telemarketing Rights

  • No sales calls are allowed before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • When you answer the call, the telemarketer must  promptly tell you:
    • That it is a sales call or a call on behalf of a charity.
    • The name of the seller or charity.
    • What it is selling or that it is asking for a donation.
  • The telemarketer must tell you the total cost of the product or service before asking for payment, and can’t charge your account until you have agreed to make a purchase or donation and to have that account charged for it.
  • Telemarketers are not allowed ask for any payment in advance for services to help you settle or reduce your debts, repair your credit record, get a loan, or recover money you lost to another telemarketer.
  • Learn more:www.ftc.gov/phonefraud and
  • www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0198-telemarketing-sales-rule
  • Are you getting calls that violate your general telemarketing rights? Stop – it’s a danger sign of fraud! Legitimate telemarketers follow the rules. Scammers don’t. Don’t do business with any company that is calling when it shouldn’t, or that doesn’t provide clear information about what it’s selling or how much it costs, or that is pressuring you to buy something that you don’t want.

Your General Telemarketing Rights Do Not Call Rights Do not Apply to

  • Political calls, calls made by charities, and calls to take surveys are not covered.
  • However, if a telemarketer is hired by a charity to call seeking donations, it is covered by these rules.
  • Calls you make in response to ads on TV or the Internet, in magazines and other publications, or on the radio, are generally not covered. Neither are calls you make in response to a letter, email or catalogue, as long as they provide complete and accurate information.  But the telemarketing rules do apply if:
    • You call in response to a recorded message and a sales pitch is made.
    • You call a company for one purpose – for instance, to ask about a bill or to buy a particular product or service – and during the call the company tries to sell you something that you weren’t calling about.

More You Should Know

  • If a sweepstakes or prize is part of the sales pitch, the telemarketer must tell you:
    • The odds of winning or if that can’t be determined in advance, how odds are calculated.
    • That you don't have to pay a fee or buy something to win.
    • If you ask, how to enter without buying or paying anything.
    • Any costs, such as shipping, or conditions, such as being over a certain age, to receive a prize.
  • If it’s a “negative option” sale where you’ll be charged at a later date unless you notify the seller that you want to cancel, the telemarketer must tell you the date you’ll be charged and exactly what to do to avoid the charges.
  • It’s illegal for telemarketers to call you repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass you.  They are also not allowed to use threats, intimidation, or profane or obscene language.
  • Telemarketers can’t send sales pitches via text message to your cell phone using automated dialing equipment unless you previously agreed to receive them. You may not be able to tell if an “autodialer” was used, but the authorities can, so if you get a text sales message from a company without your permission, report it.
  • Your general telemarketing rights are the same regardless of whether your number is in the National Do Not Call Registry or not.

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Your Robocall Rights

  • A robocall is a call that uses a prerecorded message or is made with an autodialer (or both).
  • A telemarketer can only call your landline or cell phone using a prerecorded message to try to sell you something if you gave the company prior written consent to make such calls to you. Prior written consent is also required for a telemarketer hired by a charity to call your landline or cell phone using a prerecorded message to ask for a donation, unless you have given to that charity before.
  • Prerecorded calls to your cell phone for other purposes (except for emergencies) also require prior consent, which can be written or verbal.
  • Learn more:www.ftc.gov/robocalls and www.fcc.gov/guides/robocalls
  • Are you getting robocalls that violate your rights? Stop – it’s a danger sign of fraud!

Your Robocall Rights Do Not Apply to

  • Calls to your landline phone that use prerecorded messages don’t require consent if they are for:
    • Informational purposes such as to notify you of a change in your flight, remind you about an appointment, or confirm an order.
    • Political, emergency, or other purposes where the caller isn’t trying to sell you something.
  • A healthcare provider can make a prerecorded call to your landline phone without your prior consent if the message is related to your health benefits, treatment or case management – for instance, a message from your pharmacy reminding you that it’s time to refill a prescription or from your doctor’s office that flu shots are available. Such calls to your cell phone do require consent, which can be written or verbal.  Prerecorded sales pitches for products or services that aren’t prescribed by health care providers as part of a plan of treatment, such as health club memberships, weight loss programs, or vitamins or minerals, require your prior written consent.

More You Should Know

  • Calls that use prerecorded messages cannot be made to emergency lines and people’s rooms in hospitals, nursing homes, and similar places except for emergencies or with prior consent. If they’re made to try to sell something, that consent must be in writing.
  • At the beginning of the prerecorded message it must tell you on whose behalf it is being made.
  • A telemarketer that is using a prerecorded message to try to sell you something or to ask for a donation on behalf of a charity must provide an automated way for you to stop continuing to receive such calls, even if you had previously agreed to get them. Information about how to use the automated system must be provided early on during the call. This does not apply to prerecorded calls from healthcare providers as long as they are related to your health benefits, treatment or case management.

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Your Caller ID Rights

Your Call ID Rights Do Not Apply To

  • Political calls, calls made by charities, and calls to take surveys are not covered.
  • But if a for-profit telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, Caller ID must be displayed.
  • It’s illegal for anyone to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate Caller ID with the intent to defraud, harm, or get money or something else of value from the person being called.

More You Should Know

  • If the telemarketer is calling on behalf of another company or a charity, it’s OK for the Caller ID to show the customer service phone number and name of that company or charity instead of the telemarketer’s.
  • The display must include a phone number that you can use to ask not to be called again.
  • Your Caller ID rights are the same regardless of whether your number is in the National Do Not Call Registry or not.

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