It's time for FTC to crack down on robocalls

Telemarketers seems to be ignoring the 'do-not-call' registry in greater numbers.

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Although it's sometimes difficult to believe when the phone rings the instant dinner is served, the goal of telemarketers is not to annoy people.

Telemarketers aim to make sales -- and money. Their seemingly non-stop calling is motivated solely by the quest to accumulate more dollars.

The telephone habits of America have changed much in the decade since the "do-not-call" registry was approved as a way to stop unsolicited phone calls.

Nearly every person now has a cellphone. As a result, a great many people no longer have land-line home phones. This means telemarketers have fewer targets because cellphone numbers, to this point, have been tougher to obtain.

And this explains why the federal "do-not-call" registry is now being ignored by more and more telemarketers.

The Associated Press reported this week the complaints to the government are up sharply about unwanted phone solicitations.

The do-not-call registry has more than 209 million phone numbers on it. Telemarketers are obliged to check the list at least every 31 days for numbers they can't call.

That's not happening. The Federal Trade Commission officials said fewer telemarketers are checking the list to see which numbers are off limits. In 2007, more than 65,000 telemarketers checked the list. Last year, just 34,000 did so.

Government figures show monthly robocall complaints have climbed from about 65,000 in October 2010 to more than 212,000 this April. More general complaints from people asking a telemarketer to stop calling them also rose during that period, from about 71,000 to 182,000,

Despite those numbers, the FTC told The Associated Press the registry is doing an effective job fighting unwanted sales calls.

"It's absolutely working," said Lois Greisman, associate director of the agency's marketing practices division, but "the proliferation of robocalls creates a challenge for us."

Hmmmm, the number of complaints -- and anecdotal evidence from conversations with our Walla Walla neighbors -- indicate the FTC is out of touch.

The current system isn't working particularly well.

The law establishing the "do-not-call" registry doesn't just need teeth, it needs giant, poisonous fangs to put a bite into telemarkerters ignoring the law. The government needs to continue levy fines so large that telemarketers will fear breaking the law and then work to collect those fines. The extra cash could then be used for future enforcement.

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