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The bogus "Department of Utility Services" is at it again—or still at it, deluging Californians with repeated phone calls, often more than one in a day, as they telemarket whatever it is they are selling that will cut my electric bill. The only part of the call that's different today from the ones I got in January and February is the name of the department. Now it's the "Utility Services Department," with the implication that this is a state of California agency—which, of course, it isn't.


I wrote to Attorney General Xavier Becerra when I received the first call in early January, and again in February when another annoying call came from "Card Member Services." Actually, the credit card telemarketer called FOUR times that day, telling me each time that this was the FINAL CALL. They called again today, twice, and have called most weekdays for the last two months. I'd punch 9 to ask to be removed from the list, but this caller doesn't offer that option.

I long ago gave up on the Federal Communication Commission's "Do Not Call" list. I've been listed there for ages and it does no good.

I long ago gave up on the Federal Communication Commission's "Do Not Call" list. I've been listed there for ages and it does no good. The FCC apparently has little, if any, interest in curtailing such calls, which they probably consider a low item on their list of things to do.

So, I've tried to encourage Becerra to take some action. I appealed directly to him because the official form for reporting such irritating telemarketer calls to his consumer complaints department is designed to discourage consumers from making reports, not to make it easy to do so. The numerous boxes to fill in and the information that's required discourage most consumers from filing a complaint.

And that's why I appealed directly to Becerra in January and February. I'm now appealing to him as the robocalls continue in April, because he never responded to my first two complaints. Maybe when he reads this in LA Progressive he'll see that fellow progressives can be concerned about unwanted telemarketing phone calls and still be activists on other social justice issues.

Becerra ought to be interested in the "Department of Utility Service," or its counterpart, the "Utility Services Department," because it clearly implies it speaks for the state of California. Here's the text of the message at the beginning of the phone call:

This message is provided by the Department of utility services. Right now homeowners can take advantage of up to 10,000 dollars worth of funds provided by the state to help with energy efficient upgrades in their home to find out which projects are covered by the funding and to apply before the deadline press one. Press 9 to be removed.

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By referring to the "state" and its $10,000 in aid in a call made to residents of California, the caller gives the impression that the "Department" which is "providing" the message is an agency of California state government. There, of course, is no such department in this state's governing agencies. That's why Becerra, as attorney general, ought to be acting to stop whomever is behind these calls.

But he's unmoved by the appeals that I and other Californians have made to his office. There has been no response to my appeals.

A year or so ago I wrote a story for The Spoof, the online humor, satire and fake news publication. In it, I facetiously wrote that Becerra had declared robocallers and telemarketers "domestic terrorists" and planned a vigorous crackdown on their misleading phone calls. I thought he might read it and be inspired to act. No such luck.

I then wrote a second "news story" for Spoof, in which an infirm, elderly man was forced to answer repeated calls from the telemarketers. In exasperation, he told one "May ISIS lop off your head!' That got action, but not in the way expected. On a complaint from the telemarketer, Becerra had the old guy arrested, charged with domestic terrorism. The woebegone senior refused bail as he awaited trial, noting that "At least I won't get any robocalls in my cell."

It's time for the attorney general to take action against the robocallers and those telemarketers who call incessantly or violate the "Do Not Call" list. This is indeed a progressive issue because progressivism includes the right to privacy and freedom from harassment by greedy scam artists or legitimate companies that use unsavory or illegal sales pitches to lure customers.


Will the attorney general act?

Ralph E. Shaffer

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona.