Fate tries to curb telemarketers

Lawmaker working to create state law to keep telemarketers at bay

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

Since the launching of a national do-not-call registry June 27, millions of Americans have signed up to avoid phone calls from pesky telemarketers.

The federal legislation also has given a shot in the arm to Alaska Rep. Hugh Fate, who is pursuing state legislation to set up a similar system to block telemarketers in Alaska.

Fate, a Fairbanks Republican, said the federal law is a step in the right direction. But he said Alaska still needs a state do-not-call registry to address the problem of in-state telemarketing.

The federal registry covers interstate telemarketing, or telemarketers calling from one state to another. Fate's House Bill 15 would establish a do-not-call registry for Alaska telemarketing firms that make unsolicited calls to state residents.

"We will not stop work on House Bill 15 because the national legislation and list only applies to interstate soliciting calls," Fate said in a prepared statement. "We need similar rules to apply to intrastate solicitation calls as well."

At the beginning of this year's session of the Alaska Legislature, Fate introduced HB 15, but the bill was still in the House Finance Committee when the session ended May 21.

Fate's Chief of Staff Jim Pound said lawmakers and staff working on HB 15 are reviewing the federal do-not-call legislation in an effort to plug any loopholes left open by the law. Fate said he hopes to have the state do-not-call list in place by next year.

Twenty-seven states have intrastate do-not-call registries.

In a press release, Fate said he introduced the bill to spare citizens the trouble of receiving unsolicited calls, and to protect senior citizens who become victims of telemarketing scams.

"I was especially concerned for our seniors, who have reported numerous telephone scams to the police, only to find out there is little that can be done to stop them," Fate said.

Marie Darlin of Juneau, a volunteer lobbyist for AARP, an organization that represents people 50 and over, testified last session in favor of the bill.

She said her main concern is that seniors are not exposed to scam solicitations.

"(Telemarketers) don't seem to take no for an answer," she said.

Darlin said AARP will continue to push for the legislation next year.

"I hope (the Legislature doesn't) say, 'The feds have done it and we don't have to do any more,' " she said.

Like the national do-not-call registry, Fate's bill would allow citizens to sign up for the service free of charge. In-state telemarketers would have to pay a fee to purchase the list to fund the establishment and maintenance of the registry.

The national do-not-call registry is operated by the Federal Trade Commission. States will begin enforcing the registry in October.

Citizens can sign up with the national registry on the Internet at www.donotcall.gov or by phone at (888) 382-1222. Those using the toll-free number must call from their own phone in order to be registered.

Companies that violate the national do-not-call law can be fined up to $11,000 per violation.

Those who register on the national do-not-call list by Aug. 31 will see an immediate reduction in telephonic solicitations, according to the FTC. Those who register later than Aug. 31 may experience a lag time of up to three months before they stop receiving calls.

Phone numbers will stay on the national registry for five years from the date of registration.

According to the FTC's Web site, those who register still will receive calls from political organizations, charities and telephone surveys.

They also may be contacted by companies with which a person has an existing business relationship.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.

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