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Sunday, April 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


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Do telephone surveys skirt the do-not-call laws?

Q: Over the past few weeks we've received automated calls that purport to be a survey. Today, for example, we received an automated call that claimed to be from "My Surveys" (the names of these surveys change from call to call, we've noticed). The recorded voice says you've been selected for a survey and then asks a series of questions to which you are to respond either yes or no by pushing numbers 1 or 2 on your phone. Some questions are financial: for example, "Do you have a mortgage?" Today's survey asked if anyone in your family has an addiction.

Who are these people? What are they up to? Is this practice, as I suspect, an attempt to get around the do-not-call list? And is there anything we can do to get them to stop?

— M.M.

A: Surveys are one of three types of calls that are exempt from the do-not-call registry, said Charles Harwood, regional director for the Federal Trade Commission. (Political calls and nonprofit activities are also exempt). If the survey turns into a sales pitch, then it is a commercial call and should be covered by the do-not-call rules, he said.

Pre-recorded and automated voice calls are monitored, too, but they are allowed as long as they aren't commercial calls. The Federal Communications Commission does have rules about what they must contain: They must state, at the beginning, the identity of the business calling. At some point, the caller has to give a phone number for the business.

To complain about a commercial telemarketing call, visit or call 888-382-1222. You'll need to provide the date of the call and the phone number or name of the company that called you.

To complain to the FCC about unwanted automated calls, call 888-CALL-FCC.

Emily Heffter, Seattle Times staff reporter

Have a question? Send it to, or call 206-464-2525.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company




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