We Use Illegal Telemarketing Not To "Change Your Do-Not-Call Status," But To "Give You An Opportunity To Change Your Do-Not-Call Preference"

DirecTV is defending automated sales calls to Do Not Call List subscribers as “informational,” and “not telemarketing.” The satellite TV provider recently called customers to say: “Because you are on our Do Not Call List, we can’t call you with all of our super-awesome special promotions.” This bothered reader Nina, who fired off angry letters to both DirecTV CEO, Chase Carey, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Nina received the following pigheaded reply from DirecTV counsel, Rose Foley:

*Rose G. Foley*
*Direct Dial: (310) 964-2021*
*Facsimile: (310) 964-4884***

Dear :

I am responding to your September 23 and 25, 2007 letters to the FCC, which you copied to Chase Carey. I am sorry that we troubled you with our recent calls about your do-not-call status.

The purpose of our calls was not to sell you anything or change your do-not-call status without your consent. They were purely informational calls intended to remind you of your status and give you an opportunity to change your do-not-call preference.

We initiated this recent do-not-call update campaign in order to make sure that information about our customers’ preferences is up to date and accurately reflects our customers’ wishes. We have found that a customer who at one time requested to be put on our internal do-not-call list may later decide that he or she would like to receive information from us about a variety of things.

Since our calls were informational in nature, and not telemarketing sales calls, they fall outside the scope of the Telemarketing Sales Rule and related federal and state laws and regulations governing telemarketing sales practices. As such, our calls did not violate any of these statutes or regulations.

I have confirmed that your number was removed from this campaign. I hope this explains why we made the calls and addresses your concerns.

Sincerely,

Rose G. Foley
DIRECTV Legal Department

We would love to hear what the army of lawyers over at the FTC and FCC thinks of DirecTV’s deceptive and likely illegal interpretation of the The Do Not Call Implementation Act.

PREVIOUSLY: DirecTV Calls Customer On Do-Not-Call List To Ask If They Want To Hear A Sales Pitch Anyway
(Photo: blatch)

Comments

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  1. OnceWasCool says:

    Isn’t Direct TV’s parent company NBC? Might be another place to send hate mail.

  2. hn333 says:

    Directv isn’t owned by Murdoch anymore.

  3. Blue says:

    I’m always soooooo impressed by how clever layers are.

  4. TechnoDestructo says:

    They’re calling to try and get you to allow sales calls, so that they may pester you to buy shit.

    Which means the call is for the purposes of sales.

    I don’t see them winning this one. Maybe they should send out postcards instead?

  5. Flynn says:

    How many levels can they argue this meta-telemarketing?

    “We’re not telemarketing you, we’re asking if we can telemarket you, even though you’ve explicitly told us you’re not interested.”

    After reading through numerous telemarketing pages on the laws, the *one* loophole I can see them using is that apparently internal lists only need to be kept for a number of years.

    However, I do believe they’re violating some rules for automated calling, including properly identifying themselves via Caller ID.

    I’ve been trying to get my info together to file a complaint with the FCC and the State of Illinois.

  6. Flynn says:

    One more thing on the Caller ID laws. According to the FCC:

    [www.fcc.gov]

    “If you have caller ID, a telemarketer is required to transmit or display its phone number and, if available, its name or the name and phone number of the company for which it is selling products. The display must include a phone number that you can call during regular business hours to ask that the company no longer call you. This rule applies even if you have an EBR with the company, and even if you have not registered your home phone number(s) on the national Do-Not-Call list.”

    The number they’re displaying on their Caller ID sends you to an automated service that can only REMOVE you from their do not call list. No matter what they claim, they’re in clear violation.

  7. scooby2 says:

    The deal with Liberty Media (John Malone) taking over for News Corp (Rupert Murdoch) has not completed yet to my knowledge. Yahoo Finance still shows Rupert as Chairman.

    Hopefully they get fined again for doing this. Do not call means do not call. Someone needs to teach them a lesson.

  8. cryrevolution says:

    I was under the impression that Do Not CALL meant you…can’t…call. For anything. At. All. It’s pretty cut and dry, DirecTv. And if you do start calling, of course you’re going to hear about it. It defeats the entire purpose of a DO NOT CALL list. Idiots.

  9. d0x says:

    @cryrevolution: I agree, if i put myself on a do not call list it means no matter what i never want you to call me. if i wanted to hear your deals i wouldnt have put myself on the damn list.

    his excuse is quite funny, i fail to see how they think they are following the law.

    “We are just calling you to make sure we know if you want us to sell you things, but dont worry we wont sell them on this call just the next ones so we arent violating any laws…uhm”

  10. Buran says:

    Aren’t they technically allowed to call you if you are a customer? I don’t like this any more than the rest of you do but I suspect that they will weasel out of this with that.

  11. ndavies says:

    Even if they lose this one, I see telemarketing going in an interesting direction: companies will be calling you for reasons that have less and less to do with business. Maybe somebody smart will start paying nice people to call you just to chat and only bring up their deals when you ask about them.

  12. ATTSlave says:

    You have to admit it is clever.

  13. coopjust says:

    @buran
    “Aren’t they technically allowed to call you if you are a customer? I don’t like this any more than the rest of you do but I suspect that they will weasel out of this with that.”

    If you have a “prior business relationship”, a company may call you to solicit.

    However, this is not true if you ask them to add you to their in-house “Do Not Call” list, they must stop calling you.

    Basically, DirecTV had a bot call DirecTV customers that asked to be put on the DirecTV DNC list, and in the original consumerist article it says, “[…] Because you are on our Do Not Call List […]”

    DirecTV tried to market to an audience that didn’t want the calls: customers that asked for the calls to stop. What they did is wrong, and their excuse is crap. Informing people that they are not getting “great offers” = marketing.

  14. CSMiller says:

    ‘We have found that a customer who at one time requested to be put on our internal do-not-call list may later decide that he or she would like to receive information from us about a variety of things.’
    Honestly, who consciously decides that they would like to be off the ‘do not call’ list? I laughed out loud at this line, then shuddered at what ‘a variety of other things’ might mean.

  15. Obtusegoose says:

    Even if they are allowed to do this. (Which I don’t think they should be able to.) This is an incredibly stupid method to try and gain users of their service. All DirecTV is doing is pissing off prospective customers that they all ready know don’t want to be bothered with phone solicitations. I don’t see how anyone could have thought this was a great idea. Maybe a huge fine from the FCC will stop crap like this from going on.

  16. Obtusegoose says:

    already = all ready ;o)

  17. magus_melchior says:

    @coopjust: Marketing: Coming up with insanely bad ideas and selling them to clueless management since the dawn of capitalism!

  18. Flynn says:

    @ndavies: If this causes a movement where I start getting telemarketing calls that are as unintelligible as the spam I get, I’m going jihad on all marketing people.

  19. Flynn says:

    @CSMiller: Oh it’s possible they found “a customer.” That customer just happens to be named Bruce and/or Harriet Nyborg.

  20. Jay Levitt says:

    @NDavies: It was already going that way; plenty of companies (especially in FL, for some reason) were toeing the line with “sweepstakes” that everybody wins but which require a payment, or push polls, or what have you. Some were setting up non-profit sister companies to make the calls and “inform” you of things that the main company could sell you.

    But DTV’s loophole – if it holds up – is a big one, because their argument would seem to hold water for *any* caller, prior relationship or no. “Hi, this is Steve’s Discount Plumbing. We’re calling to inform you that we are setting up a new phone-call list, and we’d like you to be on it.” That’s information, not sales.

    What could Congress do? Ban any unsolicited phone calls that *might* lead to a sale? That’s pretty vague. Define “informational?” Hardly likely.

    Plus, IIRC, only the FCC (or maybe the FTC) has a cause of action with the do-not-call list; I don’t think individuals have a right to sue. So this could take years to get to the courts.

    Nice going, DirecTV. You’ve opened Pandora’s box.

    I do, however, predict a hot market in home phone numbers for DirecTV personnel to receive “informational” calls.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    “Your honor, I wasn’t caught raping your wife. I was only seeing if my penis could fit her vagina in the event that I WANTED to rape your wife.”

    Good luck with that argument in a court of law.

  22. homerjay says:

    Carey, You left off this Rose woman’s email address. I would like to directly send her some consumery love.

  23. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I think US corporations are starting to hire telemarketing companies in Canada to bypass the Do-Not-Call list and use spoofed Caller ID numbers. If you check the Who Called Us site, you’ll find a lot of people reporting similar experiences.

  24. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: I have it on good authority this is the case. Good authority being that I asked the lady where she was calling from, and she replied, “Canada.”

  25. FishingCrue says:

    That’s like the porn store that advertises on bus benches saying “Don’t shop at ___ XXX Book and Video Store”

  26. Andrew says:

    I wonder how many people said,
    “Yes! Please put me on all of your automatic dialing computers so that I may be driven insane by incessant calls from you and any other company that qualifies as one of your ‘partners’.”
    I doubt it was a lot.

  27. Nytmare says:

    @ATTSlave: What’s so clever about it? The fact that it’s unique? What you and marketers alike don’t realize is that the reason it’s not done by most companies is because it’s unethical and stupid. It would have been thought up long ago if it was a good idea.

  28. LucyInTheSky says:

    i think this may actually be the funniest thing i have seen today. disturbing, yes, but also quite funny. although i can safely say that it might be less funny if i were to actually receive this kind of call.

  29. Chicago7 says:

    WTF? Give it up already, telemarketers. Nobody is interested. Geez, people are giving up landlines so they don’t get telemarketing calls. You would think the landline provids would ban telemarketing, just to keep market share.

  30. kbarrett says:

    Canada maintains a do not call registry. US citizens can get on it.

    The Canadian government actually enforces its list.

  31. Chicago7 says:

    The US enforces the do not call registry, too. But you have to report the perpetrators EVERY TIME!

  32. ju-ju-eyeball says:

    Why can’t the government just pass a law making it illegal to call a private citizen with the perpose of selling them something.

    Usually, I just start having phone sex with the caller until they hang up…

  33. reykjavik says:

    @ju-ju-eyeball:

    because that would violate their constitutionally protected right to free speech. Even business speech is protected. If the government could just ban any speech thats annoying, then all liberals would be shot.

  34. nardo218 says:

    Yeah, that’s really up to a judge to decide, Rose, not you.

  35. StevieD says:

    A telewhore is a telewhore, no matter how you slice it, dice it, or screw it, it will always be a telewhore and if you do business with a telewhore you deserve the diseases that you catch from the telewhore.

  36. StevieD says:

    @ju-ju-eyeball:

    Right on !!!!!!

    Phone Sex.

    Better than me asking the telewhore to supply me an busty blonde escort.

  37. D-Bo says:

    This cracks me up. Informational my ass. I hope these guys get raked over the coals for this.

  38. Amy Alkon says:

    Thanks for including Rose’s number. I just called it to tell them what scumbags they are, and that I will never get Direct(marketing)TV. The phone answers “legal department” — so I guess they’re getting a few calls.

  39. synergy says:

    What part of “DO. NOT. CALL.” do these people not understand??!

    And what are the odds that someone who asked to be put on that list will want to be taken off of it?! I’m betting slim to none!

  40. TMurphy says:

    I think we should find a way to hack into lots of telemarketing systems (or find consumerist-types that are currently stuck at telemarketing firms), then take lists of every business number for each of those companies, and add all those numbers on the call lists. See how they like a taste of their own medicine.

    If this fantasy doesn’t work out I’ll join flynn on that jihad (“guns, lots of guns”).

  41. crankymediaguy says:

    “If the government could just ban any speech thats annoying, then all liberals would be shot.”

    Which would give conservatives even more death to masturbate over. Gotta LOVE that “Culture of Life.”

  42. mblitch says:

    The FCC covered this a long time ago. DTV is seriously in the wrong. This was pointed out on a TCPA (47 USC 227) related email list from another contributer.

    MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

    Adopted: July 26, 1995 Released: August 7, 1995

    15. Decision.
    ….A call made by a telemarketer solely to determine whether a subscriber wishes to receive a telephone solicitation is, in effect, a solicitation from that telemarketer, and accordingly would violate that subscriber’s do-not-call request.

  43. celticbruja says:

    Interesting. Just today I called Direct TV to be removed from their mailing list. I was told that I had to give them my phone number to be removed from the mailing list-seriously. When I was transfered to a “supervisor” after refusing to provide a phone number the first thing the supervisor did was ask me for my phone number then reprimanded me with “I thought you were ok with this(?!) followed by an impatient sigh. Then she started speaking v-e-r-y slowly as if I were impaired. When I pointed out that it it illegal to refuse to remove me from their mailing list and I had no obligation to provide my phone number she hung up on me. Guess now I know why they needed my number.

  44. nick_r says:

    I had this happen to me a few weeks ago and fired off an angry email to DTV customer service. Thought I might get something free, but instead just got an apology email from a rep who said he’d “resubmit” my request to continue being on the Do Not Call list.

    Amazing level of bullshit from one of the only companies I never have a problem with (before now).

  45. royal72 says:

    dear rose,
    the purpose of this letter is to ask you, how the fuck do sleep at night? you lie for a living and badly at that, for a company that would take out a life insurance policy on their grandma, right before they whack her.

    anyway, your calls are NOT informational in nature and regardless of that, which part of DO NOT CALL ME, do you not understand?!
    sincerely,
    the consumerist
    commentator department

  46. sikopath says:

    @ CHICAGO7

    If the telemarketing didn’t work then they wouldn’t keep putting money into it. Just like spam, if people would quit replying to them and buying crap off them then they would go away. I am not mad at the telemarketers, i am mad at the people that buy off them.

    @ ROYAL72

    He sleeps on a bed of flippin’ money. That is how they all sleep.

    sikopath

  47. unclescrooge says:

    Hasn’t the time come when we need to demand that our lawmakers ban any marketing where the consumer is paying for the connection?

    Spam is marketing. The user has to pay, either via cash or agree to view ads on a free service, in order to get email.

    A person has to pay for a phone line either land or cell. Telemarketers are pushing their pitches to individuals who have to pay for this service and then pull teeth to get off the lists.

    Marketers, in my estimation, are deplorable sociopaths who in another life might be serial killers. They only care about themselves and they have no remorse for the damage that they inflict.

    Telemarketing is an invasion of privacy and companies that demand to have a phone number before conducting a transaction, or that take advantage of your emergency contact information to market you, are scum and they do not care.

    That’s the big problem with this country. No one cares about anything other than money. “I gotta get paid” is the mantra and those adhering to it will pay a price someday.

  48. jimmydeweasel says:

    Didja know that politicians are exempt from the do not call list? Huh did ya? Huh? It’s that time of the cycle here in Florida and the robots are dialin’ their cute little fingers to the nub.

  49. rhanzelka says:

    We (wife and myself) entered a two year contract (that we understood at
    the time to be a one year contract)with Direct TV in late 2007. Big mistake!
    I have had problems with the service from the beginning. It started with
    shoddy installation that prohibited me from locking my home and protecting
    my family and valuables from break in. We are plagued with downtime due to
    faulty equipment that won’t even last through the contract period. When we
    request service on their defective equipment, they tell us they are going to
    charge us to fix their equipment. I had cablevision for 30 years prior to
    getting screwed by Direct TV. This is the worst service coupled with the
    worst product I have ever been stuck with in my entire life. The worst thing
    that ever happened with cablevision was being down for 2-3 hours once every
    year or two because of a down line. When I call Direct TV for service, they
    tell me it will be a week to ten days before they can get to me. So I am
    without television for that long but am still charged for it. I am also
    expected to take four to eight hours out of my work day every time Direct TV
    comes to my home. The last time I was told service would be performed
    between eight o’clock in the morning and noon. The technician did not even
    arrive onsite until 12:10 p.m. Service was not performed until after the
    agreed upon time that it would be completed. That was just two week ago. Now
    the service is broken again and we are told it will be another week before
    they can come to fix it. How long will the FCC go on allowing Direct TV to
    cheat and take advantage of customers? I would love to have the opportunity
    to do a commercial for cable television. After being subjected to customer
    service as poor as Direct TV, I know what the worst is. And to top it all
    off, when my wife negotiated this contract with Direct TV she was told that
    it was a one year agreement. Two weeks ago when we had trouble the last
    time, we were informed that it was a two year and not a one year contract
    that we originally agreed to. I suppose we can throw a little deceptive
    trade
    in for good measure… huh? This is the worst experience I have ever had
    with any vendor in my 50 years and I will make sure I tell everybody that
    has ears to hear.

  50. rhanzelka says:

    They have sent 3 technicians out here to repair and it still doesn’t work.I
    have currently notified FCC, BBB, and Attorney General for the state of
    Texas. I will continue to complain to everybody that has ears until the
    issues with your service are resolved one way or the other. Also the last
    technician that came to my house treated our property like a trash dump.
    There are connectors in the yard under the switch box on side of house that
    he cut off (great shrapnel for lawn mower to kill or harm children and
    unsuspecting passers by) and trash on floor from stripping wire etc behind
    living room TV. We have been promised a visit from a supervisor for over a
    week now to settle the issues that have gone on since the poor installation
    in November of ’07.

  51. Anonymous says:

    those people who yank “do not call me” are obnoxious. they get called anyway and however high the fines could be, they’re merely a small fraction of profits, which is regarded as cost of business.. and those people are desperately trying to put more people out of jobs, which are scarce these days because of massive layoffs everywhere, and even that doesn’t work so far as all call centers are fully operational in profit. what they don’t realize is, if they push us too far, we can move call centers to, say, phillippines or mexico, who are not bound by U.S. laws, and move corporate offices to another offshore country, like automobile and other manufacturers are moving jobs to cheaper countries which costs more loss of jobs nationwide, and we can still call that way and get no fines. so one day, you can look at the U.S. where there is no job for anyone but lots of products and advertising..