The FTC Consumer Help-Line Is Anti-Consumer

Over 15 minutes on hold, several layers of phone tree prompts delivered in a ponderous and faux erudite tone, a rep with a hard to understand accent, and getting disconnected in the middle of the call… sounds like your megacorp 1-800 line, right? Nope, it’s the FTC Consumer Help Line.

We read a story in the Portland Mercury about how Princess Cruise Lines was requiring a death certificate be sent before they would stop sending junk mail to a guy’s dead step-grandfather. That sounded wrong, and possibly illegal, so, failing to find relevant information online, we called 877-3824-357, the FTC Consumer Help Line. There we experienced probably the most annoying automated voice response system we’ve heard since we started blogging. Sheesh, we just have a simple question, you don’t need to take down all this personal information or route our call by a very specific subject matter (it didn’t help that our query kept falling under “other”). Maybe our experience isn’t typical but that phone tree needs some trimming.

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  1. kenposan says:

    A death certificate to stop sending junk mail???? You can’t even escape it after death!!!

  2. gniterobot says:

    Why stop at death? Zombies enjoy cruises too.

  3. timmus says:

    I just had to find out what this voicemail system was like and where the FTC is trying to capture callers. Here’s the structure.

    2: File a complaint on credit/loan matters
    3: Complaint on identity theft
    4: Other type of complaint
    5: Order publications
    6: Identity theft
    8: Free annual credit report
    -: Pitch for FTC’s website occurs here too

    4 – OTHER
    1: telemarketing
    2: internet services
    3: merchandise you didn’t order
    4: employment opportunity
    5: other

    5 – OTHER
    1: telephone billing
    2: automotive
    3: prizes
    0: other

    0 – OTHER
    Says it’s transferring to an agent.

  4. @kenposan: Nope, usually they keep sending or they offload it to relatives.

  5. dbltrouble says:

    Since the FTC is a federal agency, any outsourced agency must be US and located in the US. I’m not certain if the employees must be US citizens, but if the locale is US, then the person must be a citizen, permanent resident or have a valid work visa.

    Clearly, the website is likely to be a better avenue to initiate communications with that wide a list. Clearly, the tree is set up with the most common issues first. It’s just that if you dont have a “most common” you are best erring out to an attendant immediately.

  6. synergy says:

    @dbltrouble: I’ve known local large companies lay-off a large number of American citizens and then replace them with foreigners on visas and permanent residents willing to be paid MUCH less than the 10- or 20-year veterans. It wasn’t a federal agency, but then I don’t know why a federal agency wouldn’t do the same.

  7. YerBuddy says:

    When I called, I’m pretty sure they asked me for my birthday and SS#. That was a little shocking.