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Making the phone what it used to be

August 08, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

If you'd like a break from those pesky telemarketers, beginning this week relief is only a phone call away -provided you live in Pennsylvania. It's an approach that should be adopted nationwide to keep citizens' phone lines free from unwanted solicitations.

The "Do Not Call" law took effect Tuesday and allows consumers to register by calling a toll free number - 1-888-777-3406 - or by logging onto a special Web site, www.nocallsplease.com.

Names submitted will be turned into a list, for which companies that engage in telemarketing efforts in Pennsylvania must pay $465 annually. For that price, those firms also get updates on new names every quarter. The law also prohibits telemarketers from using devices to block Caller ID.

Those convicted of breaking the law will face civil penalties of $1,000 per violation or $3,000 per violation for illegally contacting omeone 60 or older.

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Interestingly, the groups excluded from the provisions of the law include political campaigns, which can call voters to ask for their support. In answer to reporters' questions, State Attorney General Mike Fisher, who's a gubernatorial candidate, said his campaign would not voluntarily refrain from making unsolicited phone calls.

We're not as worried by political campaigns, which only happen every few years, as we are about out-of-state companies that telemarket. Will Pennsylvania really attempt to extradite a telemarketer for a civil trial that if successful would only yield a $1,000 fine?

The better approach would be to press for creation of a nationwide list, available on the Internet, that telemarketers could download and use to program their own computerized dialing devices.

To the people who make their living making phone calls, we're sorry, but just as door-to-door sales campaigns have disappeared in the last 20 years, telemarketing seems destined for the same fate. Now if only someone would find a way to block all those annoying e-mail solicitations.

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