Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tired of Telemarketers? These Apps Can Help

Your time is sacred. If you are a busy business professional or a full-time parent, you don’t have time to answer pointless phone calls. Telemarketing is a highly regulated industry, but many telemarketers ignore the rules. Now some software developers have created smartphone apps that could help cut the calls.

Smartphone Apps Screen Telemarketer Spoof Numbers

It used to be easy to use Caller ID to screen out telemarketers. Calls from far-away area codes were easy to dismiss, especially when you didn’t know anyone in Utah or California. But today’s telemarketers have gotten smarter. In recent years they have begun “spoofing” local numbers, creating fake numbers similar to the targets of the calls in the hopes they will pick up. 

It works. Local residents pick up just in case the call is from their kids’ schools or a neighbor, and the robocall recording kicks in, using up their valuable time. Now software developers have created apps to combat telemarketers, either by blocking the calls or by answering for the user. 

RoboKiller, for iPhone only, uses Answer Bots to answer spam calls, waste telemarketers’ time, and learn their voice patterns so it will more effectively block calls in the future. The app’s website boasts an estimated 90% reduction in spam calls within 30 days. It allows the user to create a list of registered and blocked numbers, and adds to the latter as spam callers are detected over time. 

The Jolly Roger Telephone Company blocks telemarketers and allows users to transfer the ones that get through to its robots. The calls are recorded so you can report them if you think they are illegal. The app has an entertainment aspect, because users get to choose which comedic robot persona will talk to the telemarketers and review the call afterward.

Not an App User? Do Not Call Registries Can Help

Not everyone wants to spend the time and money installing and setting up an app. If you aren’t an app user, you can still reduce the telemarketers calls you receive. The National Do Not Call Registry creates a single master list of phone numbers that telemarketers are not legally allowed to call. Once your number is on the registry, it never expires unless you remove it. Once your number is on it, the Do Not Call list will keep telemarketers from calling you with for-profit business calls. 

The Do Not Call registry isn’t immediate. It can take up to 31 days for telemarketers update their solicitation lists and remove all registered numbers. Even then, there are some robocalls that are allowed to continue:

  • Political organizations
  • Charities
  • Survey takers
  • Businesses you have bought something from in the last 18 months
  • Companies that include permission to call in their terms of use for their free offers or sweepstakes

Michigan Home Solicitations Sales Act Gives Legal Options When Telemarketers Cross the Line

Michigan consumers have options when telemarketers cross the line from persistent to annoying. First, consumers can always ask a particular telemarketer to remove them from its call lists. In addition, Michigan’s Home Solicitations Sales Act requires telemarketers to:

  • Identify themselves by name and state the full name of the business represented at the start of the call
  • Provide a telephone number for the business upon request where a live person will be available to answer questions about the business offer
  • Clearly state the total purchase price of the product being sold and any restrictions or conditions on the purchase (including refunds, cancellations, or exchanges)
  • Avoid false statements to convince you to pay for goods or services
  • Request payment by credit card without receiving explicit authorization from the consumer
  • Not block or interfere with Caller ID functions
  • Avoid using pre-recorded messages
  • Call between 9am and 9pm

Telemarketers Violations Can Lead to Recovery Under State and Federal Law

When telemarketers violate consumer protection laws, including the Michigan Home Solicitations Act, a consumer protection attorneycan help bring a private lawsuit to collect $250.00 per violation. If the claim is successful, the telemarketing firm can be required to pay reasonable attorney fees, so consumers are not paying more than they receive in relief. Certain violations can also be reported to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Federal Communications Commission, and may result in money relief. If you are being harassed by telemarketers, a consumer protection attorney can help you explore your options and protect your rights.

Dani K. Liblang is a consumer protection attorney at The Liblang Law Firm, PC, in Birmingham, Michigan. She helps Michigan residents harassed by telemarketers and other abusive marketing practices. If you believe telemarketers have crossed the line, contact The Liblang Law Firm, PC, today for a consultation.

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