Telemarketer exemption fee plan dropped by committee

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2003

Freedom from telemarketers should be free of charge, according to the House State Affairs Committee.

The committee approved a bill by Rep. Hugh Fate, a Fairbanks Republican, to create a list of Alaskans off-limits to phone solicitors, but amended the bill to cut out a provision that would charge people $5 a year to subscribe to the list.

Fate's bill, co-sponsored by five other House members, would create an "Alaska no-call list" of people who do not wish to be contacted by commercial telemarketers. The bill also would require all telemarketers to register with the state and pay a fee to obtain the list, and would require solicitors to identify themselves within the first minute of a phone conversation.

The bill would exempt poll calls and certain others, including solicitations for donations by nonprofit organizations.

Companies that call people on the list would face fines and even felony charges.

Fate said he introduced the bill primarily to protect citizens, especially seniors, from unscrupulous companies.

"As you all know, some of those solicitations are directed against Alaska's seniors with the intention of scamming them," he said at a hearing last month.

Fate originally proposed paying for the bill through a flat fee on telemarketing companies. After receiving a fiscal note estimating the program would cost upward of $100,000 a year to operate, he proposed the $5 annual fee to subscribers.

State Affairs Committee members rejected the $5 fee when it passed the measure last week.

"We want the cost of this to be passed on to those that are making the calls, not to the consumers or the public," said chairman Bruce Weyhrauch, a Juneau Republican.

The committee amended the bill to state that the fees charged telemarketers, which had previously been set at $750 a year, would be left open. The attorney general then could set fees at a level that would allow officials to completely finance the list.

The bill next will be considered by the House Finance Committee.

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