By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – It can perhaps be one of the most annoying sounds: your ringing phone, just as you’re cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, or trying to get to sleep yourself.

Making it even worse: when it’s a robocall – a computer on the other end, trying to sell you something.

It’s been nearly a decade since the start of the federal Do Not Call Registry, but in that time it has not been a ringing success.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports

The problem?

There are too many loopholes in the rules.

As of this week, however, many of those loopholes are supposed to be closed. New FCC guidelines are meant to restrict who can call you.

Under the old system, any company you did business with was allowed to call and solicit more business. But now, all telemarketers need your written permission before they can bother you.

If a robocall does get through, it must now include an option for you to opt-out immediately by pressing a button or two. In theory, you will never be called by that company again.

“Think of how many times you’ve picked up the phone and nobody is there. That’s a result of a company using robocalling or robo-dialing,” explains Somerville-based consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

“All that’s going to stop because now they’re going to need written permission in advance from the consumer.”

Dworsky suggests everyone enters their land lines as well as their cell phones into the Do Not Call Registry, but he cautions that even with the new rules, it’s not a perfect system.

“The trouble is there are so many exceptions in the law that still carry over,” he says. “If there’s a survey being done, if it’s a charity, things like that are all exempt, political calls.”

The only way to make sure your line stays quiet?

Dworsky says: “Disconnect your telephone. If you don’t want to get calls anymore, you’re going to have to give up that little device.”

The really frustrated do have another option.

For the first time, you can sue a company that isn’t following the telemarketing rules.

Comments (6)
  1. mikey says:

    Sure, another law. Don’t these people realize that MOST of the robocalls are just plain fraudulent? That they AREN’T traceable because of the technical tricks that are played with the phone system?

    What’s needed is a law that says that ANY transaction that has been initiated by illegal means is void. That consumers can contest ANY agreement that was initiated by illegal means. That ANY and ALL contracts, agreements, payment schedules, credit card charges, WHATEVER, can be voided. THAT would cut off the financial incentive for these idiots that make the calls.

  2. Mass Mom says:

    Got a robocall from the League of Conservation Voters tonight for their telephone “Town Hall Meeting”. It didn’t give me a chance to opt out of the call, but just started right up into the already-in-progress meeting. I have no business with this group and never asked to be included on this call or meeting. Despite numerous attempts to hang up on the call, they continued to hold my line open. Isn’t that against the law?

    1. mikey says:

      Call your phone company. When you hang up, they are supposed to send some kind of ‘flip’ signal to force a release of the line. It USED to be that the caller could hold an line ‘off hook’ forever, but some years ago that changed. maybe not for every service though.

      I THOUGHT robocalls were supposed to detect that flip and disconnect…

  3. Evan says:

    It takes a lot to leave me dbudfounmed but I must admit that call did it. I’ve been an election official a long time and never once have I heard of a group mailing out absentee ballot requests to voters so the voters can mail them back to the group in question. In every other instance that I have heard of when groups mail absentee ballot applications to voters the voters are directed to send them to the local clerk of the election. As an election official the very first thought I am going to have if I get a packet of absentee ballot applications from a group (any group) instead of directly from the voters themselves is election fraud and I am NOT even going to be processing them because it is likely they are fraudulent applications. My second thought is going to be to pick up the phone and make three phone calls (State Police, Bureau of Elections and FEC) because it’s a CRIME for me to suspect election fraud and NOT report it. Talk about setting the voters up here you have a bunch of voters thinking I’ve sent my application to vote absentee in so I don’t need to do anything other than wait for my ballot and so they *wait* for a ballot that is likely NOT going to arrive.

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