Of course, it was too good to be true.
The National Do Not Call Registry, which went into effect only six months ago, promised to rid consumers of unwanted suppertime calls from hucksters pitching everything from term life insurance to low-interest-rate credit cards. By all accounts, the registry appears to have been at least a moderate success. Until now.
The Boston Globe reports today that at least one major corporation has found a way around the do-not-call rules: get the customers to call the company.
Massachusetts utility regulators said yesterday that they are investigating a pattern of AT&T Corp. allegedly sending bogus bills to people who are not customers of the company, then trying to sell them AT&T phone service when they call to complain.
Of course, AT&T is strongly denying that these "bills" were intended as a sales tactic and, in fact, regulators in Boston and New York, where a similar situation occurred last month, have thus far been unable to prove any wrong-doing on the part of the company.
Nonetheless, it is particularly suspicious that AT&T's response to customer inquiries was not to apologize and correct the error, but rather to attempt to pitch AT&T services to the callers. Additionally, attempts by AT&T spokesperson Janet Wyles to pin the blame on unnamed third-party companies reek of a careful and calculated abdication of responsibility.
Tactics like these are likely only the first in a long line of new ways consumers can expect to be cajoled and harassed. Telemarketing is a billion-dollar industry, and it won't go down without a fight.