Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Stopping The Sales Pitch
Most of us thought the do not call list would be the end of telemarketers. But if you're still getting a sales pitch on the phone, you're not alone. The difference is this time some frustrated people are starting to fight back. 7's Carmel Cafiero is On The Case to show us how.
(WSVN) -- Recorded Message: High it's Ed from customer service
Recorded Message: I'm calling you about the lowest monthly price ever for satellite TV.
An invasion of privacy..
Recorded Message: Consolidate your credit cards down into one low monthly payment.
And they're illegal.
The law forbids pre-recorded voice messages or automated dialers.
But despite that and the do not call list - we're still hearing that familiar ring.
Gisela Simionitis: "I don't know how these people end up getting my name and phone number."
Like many of us, this mom is fed up.
She says the pre recorded calls keep coming at dinner pushing products or services she doesn't want.
Gisela Simionitis: "Everything from trying to sell us satellite tv to trying to sell us vacation getaways to filtered water, you name it they'll think of it."
But when telemarketers ring ben livingston's house... He hears cha-ching.
Ben Livingston: "I've filed about two dozen lawsuits over the course of three years."
Livingston has made a hobby of suing telemarketers.
So far he's made about six thousand dollars.
He's even written a "how to" book.
Ben Livingston: "The only way they're going to stop is if they feel some financial repercussion."
This self proclaimed "small claims warrior" says he'll go up against an evil telemarketer any day... Because no one is immune to the obnoxious calls.
Ben Livingston: "I feel like a rock star everyone in court loves me even the judge I can tell."
Even Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist gets the calls.
Charlie Crist: "I get them at my home in St. Petersburg."
He says you can and should exercise your rights.
Federal law allows consumers to sue telemarketers for up to five hundred dollars per incident.
Charlie Crist: "I think the more opportunities you have to fight an injustice from occurring, we ought to avail ourselves of that opportunity."
But if you don't want to go to court, the state will fight the battle for you.
After recently receiving dozens of complaints, the department of consumer affairs fined three south florida companies big time.
Daniel Hamilton owns one of them.
Daniel Hamilton: "I made a careless mistake."
Hamilton used these automatic dialers to solicit customers... But Hamilton claims he too is a victim of telemarketing.
The company that sold him the machines, didn't say they're illegal.
Daniel Hamilton: "When people call you and you're young and they solicit you and they say you can make a million dollars with this system you want to do it."
The cost of the equipment, plus fines from the state put Hamilton more than one hundred thousand dollars in the hole.
Plus he offered offended customers free carpret cleaning.
Daniel Hamilton: "I wouldn't do it again, if I had my chance to do it over again."
And that's just what Ben Livingston wants to hear.
He says it's up to irritated consumers to take action and stop telemarketers.
Ben Livingston: "I've proved the concept, I've written my zen about it, I've written my web site, I've put the info up my hope is other people will go from there."
If you get a pre-recorded call on your answering machine..save it - that's your proof.
But do your homework before you sue, you don't want to get counter sued.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ben Livingston's Web Site: http://www.smallclaim.info
To File a Complaint or sign up for the state's Do Not Call List Contact:
Division of Consumer Services: http://www.800helpfla.com/nosales.html
or dial 1-800-435-7352