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December 06, 2004

Telemarketing: The National Do Not Call Registry

I recommend to anyone who does not like getting telemarketing calls (that is to everyone) that they sign up for the national do-not-call registry here. It is very easy to do so-- only about three lines of information. The email the site sent me after I registered says
Once you have registered, your phone number registration will be effective for 5 years. It will be illegal for most telemarketers to call you, and you will be able to file a complaint if a telemarketer does call you. The website www.donotcall.gov provides information about filing a complaint.
There is an interesting negative externality from signing up, though not necessarily an inefficient one: the telemarketers will call somebody else instead. This is like the externality from visibly protecting your home against burglars with obvious alarms or signs, which diverts the burglars to other homes instead. If the people who are most bothered by telemarketers are the ones who sign up, though, the diversion could be efficient, its value exceeding the cost of running the do-not-call registry.

I don't understand why action against telemarketers and spammers has not been a prominent political issue. Surely many people would be grateful to a politician who cracked down on this very common annoyance. The registry was finally created, but why didn't Bush take more credit for it? Perhaps because most people haven't signed up yet, and would blame him for not doing more. Or, more likely, because he, like many politicians, uses telemarketing for fundraising. We need an outsider like Howard Dean to make this into an issue.

Posted by erasmuse at December 6, 2004 10:49 AM

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