Predictive Dialer Bill Fails in California Senate

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The California Senate voted against a bill that would have ended the use of predictive dialers in the state by making abandoned calls illegal.

As originally written, the bill would have prohibited predictive-dialer calls to consumers when an agent is not available.

However, after the bill was introduced in February, it was amended on numerous occasions. This resulted in a loss of support from many legislators who supported the bill, said Kevin Brosnahan, spokesman for the American Teleservices Association.

The bill was rejected by a vote of 28-12 on Aug. 31, the final day of the legislative session.

The ATA became aware of the legislation in mid-July, when California ATA members became concerned about the possibility of the bill's passage.

The bill originally would have mandated a 0 percent rate of abandoned calls, a requirement that would have rendered predictive dialers unusable, Brosnahan said.

As state legislators tacked on amendments to the bill, the requirements became less extreme, Brosnahan said.

When it passed the state Assembly on May 30, the bill was amended to permit the use of predictive dialers to further an established relationship. Later it was changed to call for a ban only on the use of predictive dialers when they call random phone numbers or generate sequential lists of numbers.

Brosnahan said that instead of working to ban the devices, legislators should work with industry leaders to come up with standards regarding abandoned calls so that telemarketers can regulate themselves.

"The industry is saying, 'We know these [calls] can be annoying,' " Brosnahan said. "Let's get together and make it as low as possible."

Kansas legislators passed a law earlier this year requiring a call center agent to be on the line within five seconds after a call made by a predictive dialer is answered. If no agent is available, the caller must receive a prerecorded message that gives the name of the caller and the company on whose behalf the call was made, but no promotional messages.

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