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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Knowing Telemarketing Sales Rules Can Save Time and Money

LAS CRUCES--One of the most unwelcome sounds at dinner time is the telephone ringing. Often, the call is from a sales person. People can get rid of these annoying interruptions if they know a few telemarketing sales rules, said a New Mexico State University consumer education specialist.


"The charity solicitations are quick and simple to deal with-you agree or refuse to contribute and that is the end of that," said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "The calls involving sales and prizes, however, are not as easy to deal with sometimes."

The Federal Trade Commission enforces a telemarketing sales rule to help consumers deal with unwanted telemarketing calls, she said. It gives state law enforcement officers the authority to prosecute fraudulent telemarketers who operate across state lines. The law also applies to calls consumers may make in response to materials received in the mail.

Here's what the law says:
•It is illegal for telemarketers to call people who have asked not to be
called. If they continue calling, hang up and report them to the State
Attorney General.
•Calling times are limited to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the
consumer's time zone. If telemarketers call outside these hours, they are
breaking the law and should be reported.
•Telemarketers must tell consumers they are selling something before they
begin their pitch. If it is a prize promotion, they must tell people that
that no purchase or payment is necessary to enter to win. If they ask for
payment, hang up.
•Telemarketers must be honest and accurate in any information given about
their goods or services. Consumers should be given the total price of the
product or service. If it's a contest, telemarketers must tell the odds for
winning and any restrictions on receiving the prize.
•Telemarketers cannot withdraw money from a person's checking account without
express, verifiable authorization. People should hang up on solicitors who
ask for an account number-banking or credit card.
•Telemarketers are not supposed to lie to get people to purchase a product or
participate in some kind of contest or sweepstake.

"The law does not cover calls initiated by a consumer or calls between businesses unless nondurable office or cleaning supplies are involved," Wright warned. "Franchise sells and pay-per-call services also are exempted."

Consumers who receive calls from telemarketers and don't want to talk to them, don't have to. They can simply tell them not to call back, Wright said. If solicitors call back, they can be prosecuted in Small Claims Court.