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Do-not-call complaints spike with addition of cellphones

By JACK WEATHERLY

The addition of cellphones to Mississippi’s do-not-call list has led to a disproportionate jump in complaints about unsolicited phone calls, according to the Public Service Commission.

Complaints in the commission’s Southern District have more than doubled since cellular calls were allowed on the do-not-call list starting on July 1, said Daniel Ford, spokesman for the district.

Before July 1, there were more than 120,000 subscribers to the list, Ford said. Since then, over 30,000 cellular phones have been added, he said.

Now there are 200 to 250 complaints per month, more than twice what had been.

The jump in complaints reflects the growing use of cellphones.

“A lot of it is robo-calling,” Ford said. The Federal Communications Commission is in talks with the phone industry to address that problem, he said.

Central District complaints have likewise jumped, from 150 to 200 per month to 450 or 500 a month, said Stacy Harrell, do-not-call administrator for the district.

Another problem is that 40 percent to 50 percent of the unwanted calls come from overseas, and the commission has no authority beyond the state, Harrell said.

Nevertheless, Harrell said that she thinks the complaint process has been successful. Registration can be done by simply going to the PSC website, psc.state.ms.us, and clicking on the no-call button, which also allows filing of complaints.

There are a number of exemptions to the list:

• An entity that does not make a major sales presentation during a call.

• An entity that does not try to complete a sale during a call.

• Realtors.

• Auto sellers.

• Insurance agents.

• Securities brokers and investment advisers.

• Charities.

• Newspaper ad and subscription callers.

• Banks and other lenders.

• Funeral homes.

• A telemarketer with an established relationship with the person being called.

Harrell said that the Mississippi Telephone Solicitation Act was passed in 2003 after a protracted effort to reach agreement on exemptions was finally reached.

Efforts to obtain information about the Northern District were unsuccessful.

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