Predictive Dialing: What's Behind the Hang-Ups?

2/13/2002

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Your phone rings in the middle of dinner. You race to answer it only to find silence or the "click" of the calling party disconnecting the call. This scenario is probably repeated in thousands of homes each evening. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) receives many complaints about "predictive dialing" by telemarketers. Predictive dialing is when a telemarketer's automatic dialer simultaneously dials more phone numbers than the telemarketer can handle if all of the called parties pick up at the same time. Oftentimes, the first person to answer his or her phone is connected to the telemarketer, while the rest are disconnected.

FCC rules require that companies identify themselves to consumers and also that telemarketers maintain "do-not-call" lists for people who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls from a certain company. The practice of predictive dialing and the resulting abandoned calls often do not allow consumers to identify the company calling, and, therefore, do not afford consumers the opportunity to make a do-not-call request under FCC rules.

What can you do to avoid predictive dialing by telemarketers? Consumers who wish to avoid all telemarketing calls may want to contact their state to find out if it has a broad "do-not-call" law that prohibits all telemarketing calls to individuals registered on its state list. According to the FCC, currently 26 states have implemented, or are in the process of implementing, "do-not-call" lists. The Direct Marketing Associate also maintains a "do-not-call" list that is used voluntarily by its member companies. Call the DMA at 212-768-7277 for additional information, or visit its web site to find out how to remove your name from telemarketing, mail or e-mail lists.

For more information on predictive dialing, contact your state utility commission or consumer protection agency.

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