A "free apartment locator service" won't stop calling my cell phone.
May 21, 2012 10:37 AM   Subscribe

A "free apartment locator service" won't stop calling my cell phone. Legal (U.S.) and logistical questions inside.

1) I'm on the do-not-call registry. I've told these telemarketers that what they are doing is illegal, and that I'm reporting them to the FCC every time they call, in the hopes that it will encourage them to take me off their list. They claim that that they're actually in the clear because they aren't selling anything, only offering me information about a "free service" — though of course, the "free service" in question is really just "steering me towards people who want to sell me something." What does the law actually say here?

2) Beyond making an online report to the FCC after every call, is there anything I can do to help get these guys shut down?

3) Have these guys discovered a general exploitable weakness in the do-not-call system and associated laws? Or is this just a rare instance in which the system isn't working as usual? Should I still trust the FCC to protect me from phone-spam, or do I need to go back to treating my cell number as a closely guarded secret?
posted by nebulawindphone to Law & Government (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Response by poster: I should add — I've already assigned this company a silent ringtone, so they're not actually bothering me much anymore.

What I want is to understand the law better, to see these assholes punished if it turns out they're breaking the law, and to better avoid similar assholes in the future.

Hearing the lamentations of their women would also be nice.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:00 AM on May 21, 2012

Have you been reporting them to the FCC each time? It's not clear if you have been all this time, or just telling the callers that you were.

If you have, I'd just continue to do that - and find out if your state has an attorney general you can also contact, as they may be able to help you as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on May 21, 2012

Response by poster: Ah, good point. I put in two FCC reports before the "oh, this is all perfectly legal, it's a FREE SERVICE" conversation. After that I just put them on a silent ringtone and started ignoring them.

Do you know whether further reports will actually help? Or is that like the federal equivalent of flagging every single comment in a thread and it just wastes everyone's time?
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2012

You might be able to sue them
posted by exogenous at 11:23 AM on May 21, 2012

They're costing you money by calling your cell. Tell them to take you off their list, get an acknowledgement, and hang up.

That said, you can be sure that it'll take a few days or even a couple of weeks to get off their list-- there's always a data processing delay (and DNS -- do not solicit -- numbers are low priority compared to fish on the hook, as it were) plus another delay for when the calling lists are re-supplied. If it takes more than a couple of weeks, do as exogenous says. You are being harassed.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:37 AM on May 21, 2012

Best answer: You may have looked at this already, but here's information from the FCC regarding the Do Not Call list.

The company may think that because they're not asking you for money, their calls fall within the "not commercial" exception, but that's not correct. They are trying to make money off of you, even though the service may be free for you.

Do you know exactly who these people are? What is the name of their company and where are they located? You could also try your state Attorney General's office -- the FCC is the right place to go for this (or small claims court) but some state AGs like to crack down on businesses with shady practices.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:56 AM on May 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you sure it's the apartment locator service initiating this on their own initiative, or could some third party be filling out their "contact me" web form with your information?
posted by paulg at 12:13 PM on May 21, 2012

Could you have given them permission to call you without realizing it, perhaps by signing up for a discount club with a lot of fine print or entering a contest, for example? There are lots of ways to inadvertently give companies permission to call even when you're on the Do Not Call list.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:10 PM on May 21, 2012

Also, this may be totally obvious, but you should explicitly say, "Take me off your list and do not call me again," not just, "I'm on the Do-Not-Call Registry and what you're doing is illegal."
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:16 PM on May 21, 2012

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