Junk calls such as those made by the telemarketing industry are becoming a regular irritation for many families and businesses. Emergency lines, cellular phones and personnel pagers are also clogged up. Travellers, in particular, resent calling their home answering machines and paying long-distance rates to hear innumerable sales messages. The recent boom has been in part due to the advances in dialling technology, including the auto-dialler and machines which hand over the a live operator only the calls that are answered. These devices can double the number of prospects to whom an operator can talk in a day. They can also use pre-programmed target lists of telephone numbers collected surreptitiously by companies that capture callers numbers, for example callers of horoscope lines, toll-free mail-order numbers and other telephone services.
Expenditures on telemarketing have increased from US$1,000 million in 1981 to over US$60,000 million in 1991. The industry's trade group, founded with 23 members in 1983, has more than 1,000 in 1991. The number of telemarketing agents in the USA has risen fourfold between 1984 to 1991, to roughly 300,000; they make some 18 million calls a day. In addition, some 75,000 stockbrokers make 1,500 million telemarketing calls a year. Some 20 states of the USA already have laws restricting auto-diallers.
People who do not want unsolicited telemarketing calls may be able to notify their phone company and be put on a database. The cost of management may be borne by direct marketers and there may be a penalty for infringement.