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Tele-frustrating! Illinois tops nation in telemarketing complaints

cramming091129aA decade after the federal government created the Do Not Call list to combat telemarketing calls, Illinois has the nation’s worst complaint rate for people who are on the list but still get annoying phone pitches, USA Today reports.

Tuesday’s report was just the latest development this week in Illinois’ battle against unwanted telemarketing calls. On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed new legislation to toughen telemarketing protections. Also this week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on major phone companies to do more to stop computer-generated telemarketing calls, or “robocalls.”

The Federal Trade Commission, which maintains the list, says that 234,473 Illinoisans filed complaints about telemarketing calls in 2012. That’s a rate of 1,822 complaints per 100,000 Illinois residents—tops in the nation. Nationally, the average monthly complaints from people on the list but still getting annoying calls shot up 63 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The Do Not Call list is a rarity among federal programs—something that has enjoyed almost universal popularity since it began in 2003.  (More than 51 million phone numbers were added in its first year alone.) So what gives with all the complaints?

The FTC says the big culprit is more sophisticated technology that makes it easier and cheaper for illegal robocall operations to send out thousands of telemarketing calls at a time.

The agency’s answer is to fight technology with technology. “Nomorobo,” software that intercepts and hangs up on robocalls, recently won the FTC’s public challenge to techies to find ways to stop unwanted calls. USA Today reports that the software will be ready for public use soon, with a basic version for free.