No house calls: Legislators back list

State bill would match federal law prohibiting unsolicited telemarketing

Posted: Monday, March 08, 2004

The Alaska House has passed a state version of the federal law that prohibits telemarketers from calling residents who have signed up on the federal "no-call" list.

House members voted 35-1 in favor of the measure Wednesday and sent House Bill 15 to the Alaska Senate. It is now before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. No hearings have been scheduled yet.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Hugh Fate, R-Fairbanks. Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, have joined a bipartisan group of 12 co-sponsors. According to a sponsor statement, the bill is a combined effort by the Alaska Department of Law and Fate's office.

HB 15 was first introduced in January 2003 in the opening session of the 23rd Legislature and was meant to create an Alaska no-call list that would prohibit telemarketers, other than charities or companies with whom the resident already had made contact, from making unsolicited calls.

While work was ongoing in developing the Alaska bill, Con-gress was working on similar language for a national measure, House Resolution 395, which became law last year and led to regulations creating the national no-call list and putting it into effect.

Fate said the Alaska bill would supplement the federal law by making specific some of the language geared for the nation, rather than the state. It would establish specific guidelines for telemarketers operating in Alaska, including registration fees, how telemarketers are to identify themselves, financial reports, and allow the Department of Law to set penalties for noncompliance.

The original Alaska bill would have required residents to sign up on a state no-call list. The latest version of the measure no longer requires that. People signed up on the national list would be considered signed up in the state.

"It sends a clear message to telemarketers that these people do not wish to be called, and that there are consequences for noncompliance," Fate said in the press release. "It strengthens statutory language and assures Alaskans that we agree the phone should only ring during dinner hours when it is someone we want to talk to."

Even people not signed up on the national list would find some protection from unwanted calls in the new state bill. One provision would outlaw calls to people who had previously notified a telephone solicitor, business enterprise or charitable organization for which the person is calling, that they did not wish to receive such calls.

It also would forbid telephone calls using an automated or recorded message as a telephonic advertisement of a telephone solicitation.

Telemarketers would not be liable for a violation of the no-call law by employees if the telemarketer has established and implemented written procedures and policies meant to comply with the law and could show that employees had been trained. There would be no penalty for a good-faith error.

Another provision of the law would require local telecommunications companies to inform customers of the provisions of the new law using quarterly inserts in billing statements and in notices published in telephone directories.

Charitable organizations would be exempt from the law unless a customer had specifically requested they not be called by that organization.

"I co-sponsored this bill because the intrusion into everybody's lives has reached a point where the Legislature has to do everything it can to eliminate the problem, especially for senior citizens, and I hope it will help all the people of Alaska," Seaton said Friday.

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