Does Uptick In Telemarketing Complaints Mean "Do-Not-Call" Registry Isn't Really Working?

Ah, the cherished dinner hour. Peace, quiet and if that stupid telemarketer doesn’t stop calling I am seriously going to throw my fork really violently at something. If that sounds like you, you aren’t alone. Even with the “Do Not Call” registry, there’s been a spike in complaints against telemarketers, especially those pre-recorded phone calls that always seem to come when you don’t want them to. Although, does anyone ever really welcome a telemarketer’s call? Doubt it.

According to the Associated Press, the government has been getting quite a lot of complaints about unsolicited phone calls, which is odd because we’ve got that “do-not-call” registry that is supposed to prevent that kind of stuff from happening.

The registry has more than 209 million phone numbers on it, which covers quite a lot of the country. There are 84 million residential customers who still have landlines, as well as the millions and millions of cellphone numbers out there on the list.

Companies using telemarketers are supposed to check the list at least every 31 days and avoid calling anyone on it. Seems they’re kind of just ignoring that list and ringing up people anyway. Hence, the increase in complaints.

Reports the Associated Press:

Government figures show monthly robocall complaints have climbed from about 65,000 in October 2010 to more than 212,000 this April. More general complaints from people asking a telemarketer to stop calling them also rose during that period, from about 71,000 to 182,000.

The Federal Trade Commission maintains that its “do-not-call” list is doing its job very well, thankyouverymuch.

“It’s absolutely working,” said the associate director of the agency’s marketing practices division. But she added that “the proliferation of robocalls creates a challenge for us.”

Part of the problem is that robocallers weren’t really a thing in 2003 when the registry started..

“In part because of technology and in part because of greater competitiveness in the marketplace, they have become the marketing vehicle of choice for fraudsters,” she said.

Big spike in complaints about telemarketing calls, especially pre-recorded robocalls [Associated Press]


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  1. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    It has never worked, because when they started the registry all those robo operations moved their stuff overseas and went to VOIP. The Do Not Call is just one more bloated bureaucratic joke.

    • Kestris says:

      It HAS worked and worked quite well.

      I resign up every few years, and add my parents as well. None of us have gotten robocalls from telemarketers in years.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        You are apparently the exception, somehow. But everyone (I do mean EVERYONE) I know who I have asked (a couple dozen) get an average of 2 per person of unsolicited telemarketing/scam calls every day.

        • George4478 says:

          Since he and his parents also don’t get any of the billions and billions of the illegal calls that ignore the DNC list, I doubt it’s the DNC list that’s saving him. I like to know what is saving him, though, and do that at my house.

        • Not Given says:

          There was a dramatic change in the number of calls we got, when it started. Now we get the ‘Rachel or whoever at card services’ and the ‘ind sur’ that I think might be the Love Boat scam every month or so. I think it’s because we quit answering the phone. We put 10 numbers on priority ring and often don’t even look at the caller ID until later if there is no message.

      • TheMansfieldMauler says:

        You don’t have to re-sign up. It’s permanent.

        I signed up several years ago. You can borrow both my phones for a day, and then at the end of the day tell me how well it’s working.

    • SirWired says:

      What on earth are you talking about? It has worked marvelously! I use to get 2-3 calls a week from legit telemarketers. Now I get zero. Seems pretty effective to me. Yes, I get calls from scammers… I got them before, and I got them now, but they were always, and continue to be, far less than the volume of calls I got pre-DNC List.

      And how is it a “bloated bureaucratic joke”? It’s a self-sufficient operation completely paid for by telemarketers, which pay to access the list. Signing up is simple and easy, and it’s also easy for telemarketers to check their caller list against the FTC’s list. Seems like a model of efficiency to me.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        In a sense it has worked. But the effectiveness is uselessness. I don’t know if these calls are legit telemarketers breaking the law or scammers breaking more than one law, because I no longer pick up the calls.

        On occasion I am curious and pick up. They are all robo-calls, now. The most common warns me that there are crimes in my area and I need a security alarm. I once followed through and there is nothing to identify who is calling. I called back to one of the numbers and got a company that sells satellite time to businesses.

        The real problem right now is the forgery of caller ID. I blame the phone companies for accepting forged caller ID data from their customers.

        • Not Given says:

          If they are breaking the law, they are scammers, you can be almost 100% sure. If you are curious, look up the caller ID name and number on the internet. There are several sites to report and compare notes about various phone numbers. Don’t answer and if you do, don’t press any buttons. If it is important, they will leave a message.

    • who? says:

      Honestly, the do not call list works beautifully. Before do-not-call, I got several telemarketing calls per week. In all the years since do-not-call was launched, I’ve gotten exactly one telemarketing call from a legit vendor (it was AT&T, btw). Of course I get the usual number from scammers, but do-not-call is never going to stop that.

  2. Stickdude says:

    As bad as it’s been lately (and we’ve noticed an increase of telemarketing calls as well), I can only imagine how much worse it would be without the list.

  3. Hoss says:

    That wasn’t a call about my credit card? They said they can reduce the rate

    • alternety says:

      And if you notice, that call is always from a different number and frequently a cell phone. SO you can’t block them and reporting them probably does not help very much.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        What is needed is a law from Congress that disallows phone companies from pass along calls that have forged caller ID.

  4. Southern says:

    Google Voice for the win. If you’re not in my contact list, go directly to voicemail, do not ring my phone, do not collect $200.

  5. Alexk says:

    Let’s face the facts–the list has stopped working. Telemarketers have discovered, like debt collectors did before them, that the government isn’t willing to put enough money into enforcing the law. A few prosecutions make little difference, especially because the fines are not commeasurate with the ill-gotten gains. Until we’re willing to treat these things as jailable offenses, the lifetime of these laws having any effect is gonna be brief.

  6. George4478 says:

    In my experience, the DNC list has never worked. On day one, I paid to be on the state DNC list that later got rolled into the original Federal list. The calls continue to come in, year after year after year.

    Today, I got my first one at 8:38, followed by 9:34. One is a new number, one was blocked by my Digitone call blocker since it was a previous caller. I will have a half-dozen or so more by dinnertime, plus a couple after dinner. 8-10/day, every day.

    “Isn’t really working”? How about ‘not working at all’?

    • Kestris says:

      I’ve never paid for it and I’ve been on the DMC for years.

      You have to sign up every 5 years- that’s when your original sign up expires. So if you’re getting calls again, you need to resign up.

      It’s been 11 years for me and I’ve not gotten any robocalls since I signed up.

      • Kestris says:

        DNC, stupid keyboard.

      • George4478 says:

        Your info is 6 years out of date.

        From the DNC website:
        Your registration will not expire. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008. Read more about it at

      • George4478 says:

        Me: I paid to be on the state DNC list that…

        You: I’ve never paid for it and I’ve been on the DMC for years.

        Are you in Georgia? Their original STATE DNC list, lost since removed, cost $10 to join.

    • Not Given says:

      Can you block whole area codes with that thing?

  7. redskull says:

    So glad I got rid of my land line!

  8. AzCatz07 says:

    The majority of the calls I get are from charities to which I donated money. I know they’re allowed to call because I’ve donated previously, but they don’t seem to understand that the more they harass me the less likely I am to donate again in the future.

    I also get calls from my local police department. The red light and speed cameras around town have now popped me twice, ruining what was previously a clean driving record. The tickets here are really steep, too, and include points on my license and a required attendance in all-day traffic survivor school. When they call, I kindly point out that I’ve already “donated” enough money and politely tell them to f*ck off.

  9. StarKillerX says:

    Is it working perfectly? Not at all, but as I remember what it was like before the do-no-call list law was passed so I can tell you that even at the current level it’s worlds better then things were before the list was created.

  10. lyontaymer30 says:

    For me it worked. As soon as I signed up with it 6 years ago, it went from 20 calls a day to zero. And I don’t remember getting a call since. I do have another phone I don’t have on the list and I get calls on there all the time, but I don’t even answer that phone.

  11. crispyduck13 says:

    I don’t have a landline, so I keep both of my cellphone lines on the do-not-call registry and update every year. I still get robocalls and texts on both lines. Every few months there will be a wave for a week or two, then nothing for a few months. My carrier will do nothing, so I have to report the number on the do-not-call website hoping it will stop sooner rather than later.

    So maybe it is working, but it certainly doesn’t stop 100% of the bullshit calls. Not sure anything can.

  12. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    The DNC worked for me – no telemarketing calls whatever except for some robot that starts talking before my answering message finishes. When I hit Play, I hear “…6.9%”. He says the same thing every time. I’ve named him “6.9%”.

    • who? says:

      The current robocall I’m getting is “….American….” It calls once every single day. No idea what it’s about. I suspect it’s political.

  13. humphrmi says:

    I’ve found a much better way to deal with this. We give people (not businesses) our cell phone numbers, and give businesses our land-line number. Then, we don’t answer the land-line, at all. It’s interesting to go back through the missed call list on our land-line, which I do about once per month, and see which telemarketers and fraudsters thought that that 21st call would not go directly to voicemail, after the first 20 went there.

    • Silverhawk says:

      I was going to write pretty much this. We still have a landline, because my SO won’t let me eliminate it. So we use it as a spam catcher. Anyone I actually know already calls my cell or GV number, so there’s a 99% chance that a ring on the landline is spam. I just block them through my provider’s website. And it is funny to see the number of repeated calls through the day that I never even hear ring. As if I will suddenly notice and unblock them.

      • Not Given says:

        If it gives them a busy signal they will think you’re on the phone and try again.

        • Silverhawk says:

          It doesn’t. It gives a disconnected message or just goes dead, depending on which blacklist they’re on (I use more than one since I maxed out one blacklist).

  14. TerpBE says:

    The list does a pretty good job at preventing soliciting calls from legitimate companies. The problem is, more and more sleazy people are out there completely ignoring these rules. When they hide/spoof the caller ID, it’s pretty much impossible to identify them to punish them.

    They need to put together something similar to an email spam filter. If a certain percentage of people designate a caller as “spam”, they should be blocked from being able to call any numbers on the do-not-call list. Sure they could always change their caller ID info, but giving them one more hurdle might be enough to discourage some of them.

  15. cromartie says:

    Jack up the penalties. Enforce the penalties. Create sever pain. Problem solved.

  16. Kestris says:

    It doesn’t mean it’s not working- it means that those who initially signed up have expired and need to resign up. The signups only last 5 years after all. Many people likely forget about it after the first year or so.

    • Gambrinus says:

      That was true when the list first rolled out, but they changed it so numbers no longer expire.

      Frankly I wish they’d change the “existing business relationship” provision (I get way too many spam calls from Comcast) and the charity and political loopholes. The political one in particular is completely self-serving on the part of the lawmakers.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Does this surprise you? I mean it’s standard practice that when a bill is being written in Congress the first thing they do is exempt themselves.

  17. Mr. Spy says:

    Okay, it’s definitely working. There were black times before the do-not-call list. 5 calls a night. Every night. I know it sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t a freaking joke. There were days when 15 calls was not out of the question. They even left freaking messages.
    Since then, possibly once every 2 weeks. And they get reported. Every. Single. Time.
    But it’s the same damn ones. They just change their phone number every time.

    So yeah, it is working wonders aside from some stubborn fools who purposely break the law. I think people just forgot how bad it used to be.

    And frankly, aside from allowing GPS to be used by the people, it’s one of the only good things the government has really nailed.

    /I know, “black times” is overly dramatic. But it was wicked annoying. No matter what you did, they wouldn’t stop harrassing you.

  18. gargunkle says:

    I seem to be getting a lot more of these calls lately (and I am supposed to be on the Do Not Call registry)

  19. ColoradoShark says:

    Kestris is pointing out the sign up expires after 5 years. This information was correct when the Do Not Call list was first put in place. The sign up is now perpetual.

    Your phone number will stay on the list until you either take it off the list (probably a sure sign of either senility of ‘forever aloneness’) or until the number is released back into the great pool of unassigned numbers.

  20. sir_eccles says:

    Everyone seems to be saying that numbers expire in five years when in fact the registration has been permanent since the 2007 act.

    Worth going to to verify your registration but beyond that there is nothing else to do.

  21. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I still have a landline because of DSL, and with all the stories about AT&T not handling naked DSL very well, I’m keeping it. I can’t afford cable internet.

    Job hunting right now, and I’ve been giving out my cell number only to potential employers. I don’t answer the landline except at night in case it’s family. During the day, it’s usually wrong numbers and robocalls, since I’m one digit off from child support enforcement.

    Both numbers are on the DNC list, but that doesn’t stop Rachel from Card Services from calling me. Feh.

  22. Charles Edward Winthrop III, Esquire, Investigator of the Unknown Music says:

    Sorry, but they can say it doesn’t expire, but they’re full of shit.

    I renew all 3 of my family numbers every year on January 2. Still have the emails showing the last registration, January 2 this year.

    BUT, when I went to the site a few minutes ago to verify the registration, guess what. ALL 3 NUMBERS WERE NOT REGISTERED.

    Something smells fishy to me. Check your registrations folks!

  23. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Just like everything else, the DNC list won’t stop criminals from bothering us. I’ve been signed up from the beginning. I get anywhere from 1-4 calls per day from scammers.

    Due to family issues, I need to answer the phone when it rings, so I’ve assigned a special ring tone to friends and family, doctor’s office, etc. Everyone else comes in on the default ring. If the phone rings with the default ring, I don’t answer it, or if I’m watching TV or reading, I just bury it under a pillow or blanket so I don’t even have to listen to it.

    And I know I’m supposed to fill out those stupid forms for the FTC or whoever, but I’m tired of doing it because the calls don’t stop anyway.

  24. kranky says:

    For me it worked very well up until the last few months. Then I started getting robocalls from “reduce your credit card interest rate” and “save on your energy bills” telespammers.

    I report each one on the FTC site but due to caller ID spoofing I never get called from the same “number” twice even though the energy bill calls are always from the same company. I did notice the volume of those calls went way down after I spent some time talking to a rep, prodding for the name and location of the company and after I got it I just said it was the information I needed to report them for violating the DNC list. DIdn’t stop the calls completely but now I get maybe 1-2 a month instead of 4-5 a week.

  25. kethryvis says:

    i’m starting to get a LOT of calls to my cell phone… and isn’t that still illegal anyway?

    • Not Given says:

      I think autodialed calls to cellphones are illegal. This is just telemarketers, it doesn’t include nonprofit, surveys, political calls and appointment setters. It should, but it doesn’t, we should have the option to opt out of that.

  26. dave says:

    When the telemarketer calls I accept all their sales and give my brother in law name and address and telephone number

  27. Lyn Torden says:

    Just tell Ann from Card Services that you have already used their service 8 times and am happy now with your ZERO percent rate.

  28. EllenRose says:

    I have a tele-zapper. When you lift the handset off the base, it emits three tones telling phone equipment that number is disconnected. Leaving it on for a month or two makes most autodial calls stop. Then you can unplug it until the next spate of calls. I think it’s an old, old product: the battery was dead when I got it. A replacement battery fixed it up.

    I’m told most predictive dialers ignore those tones. That’s not my experience.

  29. Obtruder says:

    The problem is that though it is against the law, there is no government body actively going after these scumbags. It is up to the individual to take the matter to court under the TCPA, where the telemarketers face up to a $1500 fine per violation. I imagine almost no one does because no one knows.

  30. Proselytic says:

    “Does Uptick In Telemarketing Complaints Mean “Do-Not-Call” Registry Isn’t Really Working?”

    Exactly what it means. I’m on the list, I get robo-calls at least once a day. I’ve reported them and nothing! Thank you Android for a nice call blocker. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone made an app that not only blocked the number, but automatically sent the information (Based on YOUR settings, not the fcc, etc.) directly to the do not call list and wouldn’t it be nice if they fined each company say $.25 cents a call. $ .10 cents could go to the app maker and the fcc gets the remaining amount. Come to think of it, you could hook the marketer’s CEO to some wiring, where after each 100,000 calls, he, or she gets a shock. After a million calls, electroshock therapy is induced and their minds erased. After 10 million calls, comes automatic electrocution and a new CEO is ordered…

  31. quieterhue says:

    It worked for me. I was getting multiple calls a day for a while and after I put my number on the list, they stopped.

    I still think people should be able to block unknown numbers. Companies should be required to display minimal information about themselves in the caller ID, even if it’s just a company name. I am fine if they don’t want to provide a phone number, but I should be able to screen the call in some way. The current system is unacceptable.

  32. jp7570-1 says:

    I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in unsolicited telemarketing calls, especially in the last 3 months, When I come hom at the end of the work day, my Caller ID usually shows between 7 and 10 such calls every day.

    Many of these are shown as UNAVAILABLE (name and number), WINNER, ANSWER, LOWER RATE, WASHINGTON, OREGON, or some other non-descript name. The area codes (if they are, indeed, real) often are from Oregon, Washington state, and most recently Rhode Island.

    Almost all of the clals are hang-ups. But those that have a message are pre-recorded – usually by someone who identifies herself as Rachel – selling alarm systems. The catch is you have to press a number on your phone to talk to someone. That indicates either it is a “live” number or that you are interested in their scam.

    Press “1” and you will get some namless call center drone who doesn’t even know the number they’ve called (apparently, they don’t have Caller ID). Ask to speak to their manager or request being placed on THEIR do not call list, and you will get an extremely rude or vulgar response, or hung up on.

    These calls are accelerating to the point where it is not worth it to even answer the phone, regardless of who is calling. Our government officials claim the DNC list is working, but I can attest firmly that it is a joke and is ignored by just about every commercial entity.

    If you try to talk to someone, they are almost always rude and annoying. Hit “1” to talk to someone

    • somedaysomehow says:

      That’s because these “companies” you are talking to are not legitimate businesses, but rather scammers attempting to phish your personal information from you. Legitimate businesses can be fined heavily for violating the DNC list, so they (with few exceptions) don’t do it. You probably once pressed “1” to talk to someone, and that was all they needed. Now they know your number is a live one, and they’ve sold your number to other scammers. They’ll keep harassing you until they manage to steal your information, and once they’ve succeeded, they’ll sell your information to others. You can report these guys to the FTC, by the way. It probably won’t do any good, but every once in a while they manage to catch an entire ring of them.

  33. PsiCop says:

    Let’s face it … with all the exceptions it contains (for pollsters, politicians, and charities, to name just three), and the ability of unsavory callers to spoof phone numbers and otherwise go untraced … the “Do Not Call” law was more or less useless from the moment it was written.

  34. pegasi says:

    these bozos who call won’t identify themselves or who they’re with when they call you… you get these robo messages about lowering credit rates or asking if you want insurance, and you can’t get a human on the line… the darn things want you to leave info to have them call you back… and they’ve called your CELL phone which is illegal… and not identified the company calling… also illegal… and if you try and call back… the number doesn’t work.

    Too bad there’s not a simple way to just report the number that called you without having more info… and if they get enough reports logged then investigate based on complaints alone…. and if they’re just robocalling… then pull their call history and see if they’ve been calling cell phone numbers… which is illegal… and then can ’em!