Legislation Springs From Statehouses

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It's that time of year again. Baseballs are flying, the birds are singing, March Madness is upon us, and your state legislature is in full swing (almost).


As I write this, legislators in 43 states are in session. Six have already finished their work for the year, and one trailer, Louisiana, will open its 2001 session this week. With that kind of activity swirling in statehouses, it should come as no surprise that the introduction of legislation aimed at the telemarketing industry has been plentiful again.


I will summarize some of the most important and, perhaps, onerous pieces of pending state legislation and will encourage any readers who think these bills might harm their businesses to take their cases directly to their legislators.


• Arizona: Senate bill 1254 was amended to prohibit telemarketing calls before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. on weekdays and before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. on Saturdays, with all Sunday calls banned.


• California: Assembly bill 870 would prohibit the use of predictive dialers without either a live operator or a recorded message connecting the call when consumers answer the phone.


• California: Senate bill 1021 would require telemarketers to disclose to consumers how they obtained consumers' names and telephone numbers.


• Connecticut: House bill 6005 would prohibit the use of automatic dialers to make outbound telemarketing calls.


• Idaho: House bill 144 would require companies using pre-acquired account information to disclose to consumers that they have such information and would require the company to obtain consumers' consent to use the information.


• Kentucky: Senate bill 192 was killed last week. It would have created a special "zero-call" list that would prohibit all calls, including those from nonprofits and existing business relationship calls, to citizens older than 70 who sign up for the list.


• Maryland: House bill 819 would prohibit Maryland institutions of higher education from disclosing information about their students for marketing purposes.


• Nebraska: Legislative bill 839 would require all telecommunications companies to provide an annual billing insert notifying consumers of their rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.


• New Hampshire: House bill 470 would expand the state's telemarketing statutes to regulate business-to-business calls as well as business-to-consumer calls.


• New Jersey: Assembly bill 3065 would require telemarketers to identify themselves and their firms before asking to speak to a particular consumer.


• New York: Assembly bill 724 would require marketers to disclose to consumers that they have the right to remove their names from mailing or calling lists.


• New York: Assembly bill 3915 would require telemarketers to disclose at the beginning of the call that it is a telephone solicitation and to state, "If you do not wish to participate, please hang up."


• Rhode Island: House bill 5233 would prohibit telemarketing calls between 5 and 7 p.m.


• Tennessee: Senate bill 1554 would prohibit credit card solicitations to students on campus at state universities.


I have not included any reference to the most popular piece of state legislation this year. Thirty-two states are seeking to establish state-administered do-not-call lists. These states would join the 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Tennessee) that already have such lists.


Some of these states are taking an alternative approach. Rather than establishing their own lists, these states require companies to purchase and scrub their calling databases through the Direct Marketing Association's Telephone Preference Service for that particular state. Regardless of who administers the list, it still amounts to an administrative nightmare trying to integrate all these state-specific lists into your calling program.


Whatever aspect of your business they are trying to regulate, it is important for you to know what the effect of such regulation would be. If that effect would be significant, you need to have your voice heard in your statehouse.


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