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Los Angeles

June 22, 1995

Man fights telemarketing calls in court

Bank of America ordered to pay for not heeding request.

By Gregory J. Wilcox, Daily News Staff Writer


Telemarketers might want to take Robert V. Arkow's name off their sales pitch list. Arkow doesn't just hang up, he takes companies to court--and wins.

In the past 18 months the Canyon Country resident has earned about $6,000 in services and cash from companies whose telephone salespeople called his house after he asked them to stop by following what is known In the industry as a "do not call policy." BankAmerica Corp., the big San Francisco­based bank, is the latest to feel Arkow's financial sting. Last week he won $1,000 in small claims court in Newhall after a bank representative made an unwelcome sales call.

The court found that the bank violated Federal Communications Commission rules by not providing Arkow with a copy of its "do not call policy" when he asked for it after the employee who made the solicitation call failed to properly identify himself. Last year he took similar action against Prodigy Services Co., a nationwide on­line computer information provider, after it gave his unlisted phone number to its telemarketing firm. That case was settled out of court and Arkow declined to divulge the terms.

"I've just gotten sick and tired of junk calls, and I'm upset with telemarketers in general," Arkow said. "I'm tired of people contacting me at home trying to sell me stuff I don't want." He belongs to Private Citizens Inc., a nationwide watchdog group based in Naperville, Ill., a Chicago suburb, crusading against junk mail and junk phone calls. Private Citizens charges $20 a year to have subscribers' names and telephone numbers included in a "do not call" directory that is sent to about 1,400 telemarketing firms. The directory is a formal notice telling firms they will be charged $500 to use subscribers' telephones and time during telemarketing calls. The number is 800­CUT­JUNK.

Arkow indicated on a loan application made in February 1994 that he did not want to receive any telemarketing calls, said Bank of America spokesman Cary Walker. But on April 13 a bank employee called to tell Arkow and his wife about investment opportunities that would be available to them. Off to small claims court he went, much to the surprise of bank officials.

"In this case an employee who was unaware of Mr. Arkow's request made one telephone call to inform him of investment opportunities with the bank," Walker said. "When Mr. Arkow complained, the bank apologized and he filed suit."

Bank officials believe Arkow's award was too high, but they will not appeal it, Walker said. And Bank of America won't take any special steps in light of Arkow's action. "The procedures are fairly simple. If people want to avoid telephone calls from Bank of America they can contact teleservices ... the phone number their bank statement or the number that appears in their local directory and ask to be placed on our 'do not call' list," Walker said. "This one just fell through the cracks, and we apologized and felt that was appropriate."

Bob Blumash, Private Citizens' president, said that so far his members have reaped about $18,000 from companies that ignored members' "do not call" requests. His advice for avoiding calls: Keep your telephone number private. "Don't put your phone number on your checks, don't give your phone number to the schools your kids go to, don't give your phone number out for any reason," he said.

Anna Alvarez Boyd, director of advocacy for Consumer Action, a San Francisco­based nonprofit group, agrees. But even that might not stop the calls because even her unlisted phone number has shown up on some telemarketing lists, Boyd said.


SOURCE: Daily News research

C.A.T.S Comment: The Los Angeles Daily News did a fine job on the article except for the very last line. NEVER hang up on a telemarketer. It just helps them by calling the next person. ALWAYS ask for a "Do Not Call Policy" when they call. And ask to speak to the supervisor and demand a written letter to confirm that you are on their "Do Not Call List".

The more time that we cause them to spend (and not make $$$) will make the industry less profitable! DO THE MATH. It makes sense! If 10% of consumers asked for a copy of their policy, and demanded to be put on the list, the industry would grind to a halt!

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