CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina voters who say their phones have been ringing off the hook because of political robocalls have little recourse to make their phones go silent.
Some voters were initially surprised to receive political phone calls because they mistakenly believed registering their number on the national Do Not Call Registry would block that type of call.
The registry, however, doesn't prohibit certain types of calls, according to Federal Trade Commission spokesman Mitch Katz. Political calls are one of those types, along with surveys and calls from charities.
"It's part of the political process," Katz says. "Political calls are not considered telemarketing."
The Do Not Call Registry was designed to give consumers the option to stop unwanted calls from telemarketers. As of Sept. 1, 2009, robocalls from telemarketing agencies trying to sell goods or services are illegal whether a number is on the Do Not Call List or not, Katz says.
Unfortunately, he says some companies have ignored the law for the chance to make sales.
Katz mentioned a 2015 case involving a cruise line company and seven other companies accused of making $1.5 billion robocalls -- 2.5 million per day -- during the period the agency monitored the company. The companies were accused of illegally selling vacation cruises under the guise of political surveys that eventually connected people to telemarketers. The political survey portion of the call would have been legal, but these calls violated the law, the Federal Trade Commission said, because they incorporated a sales pitch for a cruise to the Bahamas, which generated millions of dollars for the cruise line.
The defendants in that case agreed to pay more than $500,000 in penalties, according to a release from the agency.
South Carolina attempted to stave off political robocalls in 1991 with legislation designed to stop telemarketing and solicitation, according USC School of Law Associate Dean Colin Miller. But the portion of the law targeting political calls was put to a legal test after a self-described political consultant was arrested for violating the anti-robocol statute in six counties, Miller said.
The courts declared the law unconstitutional.
With aggressive campaigns on both sides of the political aisle battling for every vote they can pull in, there is little consolation for robocall-weary South Carolinians who are stuck with phones that seemingly won't stop ringing.
"I tell people to just hang in there," Katz says. "The day after the primary, you're going to get 100 percent less calls."
If you're receiving telemarketing calls on top of the political ones, you can at least consider the Do Not Call Registry for those. For more information, to register your number, verify that it is already registered or file a complaint, visit https://www.donotcall.gov/.
It takes up to 30 days from the time you register your number until the time most telemarketing calls should stop.