A reader’s inquiry last week prompted a new look at a familiar subject: unsolicited telephone calls from marketers, researchers and politicians.
The caller believed she had received annoying calls too late in the evening.
There are Do Not Call rules but there is also confusion because of many exemptions.
• A phone put on the federal Do Not Call list becomes permanently registered. To register or verify, go online to www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222.
• Both a land line and cell phone number can be put on the Do Not Call registry.
• Robocalls (made with automated dialers) are prohibited from calling cell-phone numbers, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Unsolicited text messages are also not allowed. You can complain online at https://esupport.fcc.gov/ ccmsforms/form1088.action?form_type=1088C .
Nearly all telemarketing robocalls have been illegal since Sept. 1, 2009, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC has launched a website, www.ftc.gov/ robocalls, to help consumers battle robocalls.
You can report numbers on your caller ID received from entities identified as “Rachel” or “Card Services,” which have been a particular problem and are illegally calling people, to www.donotcall.gov or 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357), where you can get a live person. The “Rachel” calls might ask about credit-card debt and offer services.
• Registering a number will not stop all calls but will stop most telemarketing that tries to sell a product. If you have a business relationship with them, they are allowed to call you. You can ask to be put on their own Do Not Call list and they must comply.
• Calls made from political organizations, charities and telephone surveyors, or on behalf of them, are permitted.
So that brings me to survey calls and a complaint from a mother of young children who said she received at least four calls after 9 p.m. and as late as 9:30 p.m. in the last month. She was under the impression — as I was — that the Do Not Call rules limited calls to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
But the FTC and FCC say that organizations exempt from the Do Not Call rules, such as political and survey calls, have no time-of-day rules.
One call at 9:17 p.m. was from the Center for Marketing Opinion and Research, an Akron firm that surveys opinions. That call was on behalf of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, working on a project with the Beacon Journal on civility issues.
Michelle Henry, president of the research firm, said the general industry rule is not to call beyond 10 p.m., but her firm and others stop at 9 or 9:30.
Steve Brubaker, chief of staff for InfoCision, a Bath Township company that makes calls on behalf of businesses, charities and politicians, said his firm stays within the 8 a.m.-to-9 p.m. time frame, even if its clients are exempt.
Finding the right time to make phone calls, specifically calls surveying people’s opinions for research and polls, is difficult, Henry said.
“Some people don’t like to be called at dinner, others don’t like to be called during prime-time TV and still others don’t like to be called while putting the kids to bed or after 9, when they may be taking a few minutes after a busy day to relax,” she said.
Henry said for survey and polling calls in particular, it’s an important part of the democratic process.
“This isn’t all bad. Being asked to give your opinion without debate, judgment or disapproval is uncommon and gives us a chance to share what we think about important topics and allows us to take part in public discussions about those issues that shape the future of our communities and the country,” she said.
With that said, Henry has some tips for consumers. If you don’t want to participate in the survey, don’t just hang up or tell them you are not interested.
Since it’s important for the quality of the data for different perspectives to be collected, if you don’t specifically tell the person not to call you again, you should expect to get called again, Henry said.
If you want to participate, but it’s a bad time, give the caller a better time to call back.