2008-07-11 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER In today's world of anonymous bloggers, online chat rooms and e-mail messages sent at the speed of light, consumers need to cast a wary eye on claims that may appear in their electronic mailbox. A fictitious e-mail message has been circulating the Internet for some time propagating the myth that consumers' cell phone numbers are about to be released to telemarketers, and recently, this claim appeared in a report printed in a local newspaper. According to one version of the myth, consumers can expect to start receiving sales calls in a matter of weeks and they will be charged for the calls. Fortunately, this is untrue.

Most telemarketing calls to cellular phones are prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Act prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing systems or an artificial or prerecorded voice directed to any telephone number assigned to a cellular telephone service or any service for which the called party is charged for the call. Keep in mind, however, that if you have an established business relationship with a company, and the company does not use an automatic telephone dialing system, the business may call you.

In addition to the protections afforded to consumers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you have the right to add your cellular phone number to the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

There are two ways to register your number: by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register, or by logging on to www. do notcall.gov. For TTY, call 1- 866-290-4236. You may also register your home phone number in this manner, but business phone numbers may not be registered because business- to-business calls are not covered by the National Do-Not-Call Registry. Keep in mind that registering your phone number will not prevent all solicitations. Charities and telephone surveyors are among those not covered by the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

E-mail is a quick and easy way to send information, but not all the information received, even if it is from a reliable source, may be true. Such is the case regarding the claim that cell phone numbers are about to be released to telemarketers. It is often a good idea to verify information contained in e-mails before acting on that information or forwarding it on to others.

For more information, consider visiting www.breakthechain.org, a site that is dedicated to stopping the spread of electronic misinformation, and www. snopes.com, a site that focuses on urban legends and devoted to the study of contemporary lore. To learn more about the national Do-Not-Call Registry, visit www.donotcall.gov.

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