Do-not-call list gets big response

By Ed Brock

Cassandra Merrilles of Jonesboro has heard about the Federal Trade Commission's new do-not-call list that would block most telemarketers from calling her.

And she definitely plans to put her number on that list.

"Those people are annoying and persistent," Merrilles said.

The FTC launched the registry at www.donotcall.gov shortly after midnight Friday and the initial public response was strong, with the Web site initially logging about 1,000 hits each second.

By 5 p.m. EDT Friday, 735,000 phone numbers had been registered.

When the list takes effect on Oct. 1 telemarketers will be restricted from calling numbers on the list lest they face a fine up to $11,000.

Word of the list had definitely reached Clayton County by Monday, although not everybody had taken advantage of it.

"I heard about it on the radio," said Carla McLemore of Jonesboro.

McLemore had not yet added her number to the list, and neither had Violet Lyons of College Park. Both women vowed to do so, however, neither being a fan of phone calls from strangers hawking their wares.

"It's always bad timing, that's it," Lyons said.

But anyone interested in getting on the list has until Aug. 31 to sign up to activate the service on Oct. 1 and after that they can still register at any time.

"Consumer registrations continue to be high as we expected," Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman Cathy McFarlane said late Saturday.

"We have no reports of any significant problems. There are some reports of online sluggishness, but telephone line registrations were experiencing no problems."

Some consumers reported having to log onto the designed Internet site two or three times before getting through, while others got through on the first try. Once connected, the process takes just a few seconds.

There is also a toll free number, 1-888-382-1222, but that won't be operational east of the Mississippi until after Monday to make sure the FTC is able to handle the expected call volume.

Phone solicitors will have to check the FTC list every three months to update their lists, and subscribers to the do-not-call list must reregister every five years.

The list is not the only weapon available to stop those pesky phone calls at suppertime. Right now the TeleZapper device is on sale at Radio Shack for $34.99, Jonesboro Radio Shack Manager Mark Daniels said.

Daniels said the TeleZapper is designed to remove the owner's phone number from lists that are compiled by a computer that automatically calls to test the number before selling it to telemarketing companies.

"It sends a signal back to the computer system that says this phone has been disconnected," Daniels said. "After that your number is removed from the system."

The TeleZapper doesn't stop telemarketers who call directly without using a computer service. As for the impact the FTC list will have on TeleZapper sales, Daniel said it's hard to tell.

"(The TeleZapper) is easy to do, this do-not-call list is a little harder," Daniel said.

As for how the list will affect the telemarketing industry, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Moody said it will be "completely changed."

"They've been pretty smart in the past with their marketing strategy so it'll be interesting to see how they respond this time," Moody said.

However, Moody he doesn't know of any large calling centers in Clayton County.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.