Johnson City Press Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Opinion

Government should punish illegal telemarketers

August 29th, 2013 1:00 am by Staff Report

Government should punish illegal telemarketers

Prepare yourself — 2014 is going to be a real humdinger of a political year. It will be mid-term elections for Congress and we will likely see a contested race for U.S. Senate here in Tennessee. We will also have an election for governor in this state next year, as well as races for county, state and judicial offices.
We’ve heard reports that Tennesseans are already having their dinners interrupted by automated phone calls from advocacy groups targeting U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. These so-called robocalls (made with automated dialing devices and recorded messages) have become a routine part of campaign strategy.
It’s not uncommon for voters in many states to receive campaign messages from prominent political, sports and entertainment celebrities. And as a result of the Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court a few years ago, there are more political advocacy groups out there with messages to send.
But it’s not just political robocalls that are interrupting dinners. USA Today reports this week that the number of average monthly complaints of telemarketing calls from consumers who have signed up for the national Do Not Call Registry have increased by 63 percent from 2011.
The registry is supposed to protect consumers from telemarketing calls. Even so, Illegal robocall operations are using advanced technology to simultaneously send thousands of calls costing less than one cent per minute.
Under the 2003 law creating the registry, only surveys, political calls, charitable requests and informational calls (such as from schools and churches) can be made to households on the Do Not Call list. Solicitations for charities must be made by those organizations and not come from a telemarketer.
Obviously, federal officials need to crack down on those who violate the law. Yes, we know that technology has made it easier for scammers to get around the registry law. We also know our government has advanced technology of its own that it has used to monitor the calls of U.S. citizens. Instead of spying on us, why can’t Uncle Sam (or Big Brother) use those surveillance devices to expose illegal telemarketers?

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