2002-04-20 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

One year ago, on April 1, 2001, the New York State Do-Not-Call telemarketing registry was set into action. The Do-Not-Call registry was an immediate success and residents all over New York registered their telephone number with the State to reduce unwanted telemarketing calls.

Telemarketing calls can be intrusive, disruptive and disturbing to individuals and to their families. Some calls can even be misleading and deceptive. Unfortunately, senior citizens were a target of many of these phone calls. The Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection worked hard to enact a law to prevent fraudulent and unwanted telemarketing calls. The Do-Not-Call registry was established to give residents a mechanism to prevent unsolicited and unwanted telemarketing calls.

To date, almost two million residents have signed on to the list. To have two million residents respond to one law is a great success. By signing onto the list, residents have made the statement that telemarketing calls are unwanted and an invasion of personal privacy.

While the majority of telemarketing calls are prevented by joining the registry, there are some exemptions. Exemptions include; calls made on the request of the consumer, calls made in connection with an established business relationship, calls made to an existing customer unless the consumer states a desire not to receive such calls, and for sales in which completion of a sale is not anticipated unless a face-to-face sales presentation is required. Even with these exemptions, registered residents experience a large decrease in unwanted telemarketing calls.

The Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection had worked diligently in enacting the Do-Not-Call registry into law. Now, the Committee is focusing on the effectiveness of the registry in reducing calls, as well as, the effectiveness of the enforcement of telemarketers who violate the registry.

Due to the success of New York’s and other state "do-not call" lists, the Federal Trade Commission has announced that it is seeking consumer comments to amend the current Telemarketing Sales Rule to, among other things, create a national "do-not-call" registry. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers avoid such practices. The FTC is also responsible for enforcing the federal Telemarketing Sales rule which protects consumers from unwanted late night telemarketing calls (regardless if they are on a do not call list), and prohibits deceptive sales calls.

Telemarketing has been a pervasive problem in New York. In just one year, the "Do-Not-call" registry has taken great steps to reduce telemarketing calls. Its success has caught many telemarketers by surprise and has delighted many residents.

If you have not yet registered and are interested in doing so, contact the NYS Consumer Protection Board at 1-800-697-1220 or online at www.consumer.state.ny.us. The registry is updated on a quarterly basis (April 1, July 1, October 1 and January 1). Telemarketers have 30 days from the quarterly update to remove residents from their calling lists. Once registered, your telephone number will remain on the registry for a period of three years. Advance notice will be provided for residents to renew their desire to remain on the registry.

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