Trouble with the 'Do Not Call' registry? Join the club
Sep 28, 2018
ALBANY - Complaints about New York's Do Not Call registry doubled since 2014, but the state only took action on two of those complaints, an audit released Friday found.
New Yorkers have logged a whopping 450,000 complaints a year about the registry, largely because they still were receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls despite being on the registry, the state Comptroller's Office audit found.
But little was done with the complaints, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.
Just two cases were referred for enforcement action in 2016 and 2017 combined, he said.
“The Do Not Call Registry was created to help consumers avoid unwanted, nuisance calls from telemarketers, but requests to investigate violations of the law are going unanswered,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
The 2001 law that established the Do Not Call Law is overseen by the Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection.
The law allowed New Yorkers to put their phone numbers on a statewide registry to not be bothered with telemarketing calls on their home and cell phones.
Two years later, the Federal Trade Commission created a National Do Not Call Registry, and more than 14 million New York phone numbers are on the registry.
But auditors found that while complaints doubled from 217,031 in 2014 to 454,100 in 2017, the number of cases referred to the state agency's legal counsel fell from 15 to just 1 last year.
Also, the fines levied against companies who break the law plummeted from $1.9 million in 2014 to $44,000 last year.
“Without enforcement of the law, telemarketers will continue to bother people who do not want calls, attempt to steal personal information or take money from the unsuspecting," DiNapoli said.
"Officials at the state’s Division of Consumer Protection need to do a better job putting unwanted calls on mute.”
The Department of State said it has undergone a review of the program, added a program director and is working with the federal government on better practices.
In a response to the audit, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said part of the problem is keeping up with changing technology aimed at circumventing the Do Not Call registry.
"The division is committed to assisting, educating, protecting and empowering New York consumers in the ever-changing marketplace," she wrote.
"The telemarketing industry is no exception, with many changing and evolving new technologies that continue to emerge."
The state office for the program has five staffers, DiNapoli said, including a clerk and an investigator.
But the position of director of investigations was vacant for 18 months. It was filled in May.
Part of the problem, DiNapoli said, was the agency did not have a complete and accurate list of those who filed complaints.
"The issues brought up in the audit were addressed by the Division of Consumer Protection long before today's release," agency spokesman Lee Park said.
"Protecting all New Yorkers is the Division's number one priority and we've already made improvements — including hiring a seasoned telemarketing professional to oversee Do Not Call investigations."
For more information about the state program, visit: https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/do_not_call/.