After the decision of a federal judge in Denver to suspend the “do not call list” Friday, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard the list will now go ahead as planned. There is little that annoys me more than telemarketers. I even have a message on my answering machine saying, “if you are a telemarketer, no offense, but please get lost” that I can hopefully get rid of now.
At the moment, I typically get five to 15 calls a day, and most of them leave a message about some product or service I don’t even want in the first place.
People told me “just don’t pick up,” but being a journalist also means I have to be available in case people want to call me. There are some calls that I want to get, which is the reason I have a phone in the first place.
The only thing I could do is set the answering machine to pick up and turn the ringer off. That at least saved me the annoyance of picking up the phone, but those who left a message still got on my nerves with their read-from-a-script hollow sales pitch echoing through my otherwise peaceful home.
Such calls were not only annoying, but also a definite violation of my privacy. If the phone rings at 8 a.m. the morning after I get home from a late night in The Oracle’s news bunker and wakes me up, I would say that clearly should count as a violation of my privacy. Others, like a colleague of mine who has an 11-month-old daughter, are even worse off, as she wakes up every time the phone rings.
It is not only that I do not want the products that the telemarketers pitch to me; it is also the way in which it is done. In a particular instance, AT&T called me over 20 times in a matter of days to tell me about its long distance calling plans. I repeatedly told them I was not interested.
Other companies, like Time Warner (now Bright House) and their subsidiary Road Runner, called me repeatedly to sell me a service I already have.
Now after initial hitches and two court rulings, the telemarketers have finally agreed to voluntarily abide to not calling numbers that have been registered with the list.
The 50 million people that have signed up so far represent one of the largest petitions ever. Unfortunately for telemarketers – don’t snicker — they account for 80 percent of the telemarketers target audience. The response to the Web site was so large in the first couple of days of it going live that the Web site was down due to too many trying to sign up.
The court ruling that the list was putting companies at an economic disadvantage was easily enough overturned by a Congress well aware of the number of people that had signed up. It is, after all, Congress that should represent the interest and will of the population, and 50 million is a not-so- subtle hint that the population have had quite enough of unsolicited phone calls.
The second court ruling was a bigger obstacle, as the court decided the list was unconstitutional because it supposedly limits free speech.
This is utter nonsense. Free speech is not somebody wanting to sell me a washing machine. It is, however, free speech if a non-profit organization calls me at home to bring to my attention a petition. The list’s Web site clearly states that it does not block calls from “political organizations, charities, (and) telephone surveyors” which means it does not limit free speech in any way.
For now the telemarketers should be commended for voluntarily abiding with the wishes of those who have registered.
A legal way to enforce this should still be sought, though, because not all telemarketers belong to these that have agreed. Without a legal basis, some marketers might still call customers. A clear penalty to those that do not abide by the rules might also help to protect customers.
Excuse mt doubting that marketers will abide to the rules, but I have been tormented by them for far too long.
To sign up on the list, go to donotcall.gov
Sebastian Meyer is The Oracle’s Opinion Editor. firstname.lastname@example.org