How about I call you during dinner?

Originally published on clarionledger.com, about 11/10/2014.

Twenty-two years ago, comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s TV show included a segment in which he gets a call from a telemarketer, wanting him to switch his long-distance telephone service.” This isn’t a good time,” he responds. When the telemarketer asks him when would be a good time to call back, he gives this classic answer: “I have an idea, why don’t you give me your home number and I’ll call you back later?” After an awkward silence, the telemarketer responds, “Umm, we’re not allowed to do that.” Then Jerry swoops in for the kill: “Oh, I guess because you don’t want strangers calling you at home.” “Umm, no,” says the telemarketer. “Well, now you know how I feel.”

While Seinfeld struck comedic gold with that one, the fact is that telemarketing shows little signs of abating, even two decades later. Companies doing telemarketing have exploited technology to make their work more productive, while weary consumers have tried various strategies to stop the flood of calls. Finally, in 2003, consumers began to get some relief. That was the year that the national “No-Call” law went into effect, requiring that, before calling, companies purchase lists of consumers who have registered their telephone numbers.

That same year, Mississippi started its own Do-Not-Call registry, requiring that companies take similar actions, and levying stiff penalties for companies that violate the Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act.

“I understand the frustrations of MS citizens that continue to receive these unwanted calls after having their phone numbers placed on the MS No-Call list, but as you can see we are working diligently to get in the pocket books of these telemarketers,” said PSC Chairman Lynn Posey. “If you are on the MS No-Call List and still receive these annoying calls please contact my office at 1-866-622-5567, and help us continue to build cases that allow us to levy these fines.”

On Tuesday, Public Service Commissioners announced that three companies have been fined $725,000 for alleged failures to abide by the law. Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey announced the actions in a news release:

  • Financial Knowledge Network, Inc. and James Thomas Graham were fined $680,000 for 136 alleged violations of the law in 2010 and 2011.
  • HME Providers, Inc. was fined $30,000.00 for six alleged violations.
  • Fountain of Youth Bathrooms, Inc. was fined $15,000 for three alleged violations.

So, if you’re not feeling as witty as Jerry Seinfeld (I mean, who is, right?), or would just prefer not to get those calls, go to http://www.psc.state.ms.us/nocall/, or call 1-86NOCALLMS (1-866-622-5567) to have your phone number put on the registry.  Only land-line phone numbers may be put on the registry. It’s also a good idea to go to the national Do-Not-Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to register. Land-lines and cell phone numbers may be registered.

And if you’ve registered your number, but continue to get calls, report them. Remember, though: the law provides nifty loopholes for nonprofit organizations, polling agencies, political candidates and companies with which you have an established relationship. Regardless, if you do have a real human being on the phone, make your wishes clear. Write down the date, the number calling and the number they called. It can be useful later if you want to file a complaint.

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