Telemarketers nationwide received a warning letter from the New York Consumer Protection Board reminding them that they must obtain its do-not-call list before calling consumers in the state.
The letter, sent to 20,800 businesses that engage in telemarketing, said that the board had encountered instances where private list distributors had redistributed copies of the state's DNC list, which is banned under the DNC law. Those who break this rule are subject to fines up to $2,000 per violation.
Approximately 200 telemarketers are under investigation for possible violations of the state DNC list law, said Jon Sorenson, spokesman for the Consumer Protection Board. The board has secured settlements for more than $80,000 in civil penalties in connection with cases of illegal list sharing, according to the letter.
Part of the problem is that telemarketing companies buy “scrubbed” lists, from which names contained in the state's DNC list have been removed in advance, Sorenson said. As the letter stipulates, the practice is legal only if both the telemarketer and the list seller both have purchased the state DNC list.
The list is available from the state for $500 per year.
“We're discovering that we're not reaching as many telemarketers as we had thought,” said Sorenson, commenting on the board's effort to educate the industry on the state's law. “In our investigations of companies, we're finding firms that had not obtained the list.”
But some of the industry's advocates are concerned that sales of DNC lists could become a cash cow for states. The express intent of DNC list laws is to prevent telemarketing calls from reaching those who do not want them, not to make money for the state, said Kevin Brosnahan, spokesman for the American Teleservices Association.
Brosnahan said he had not seen New York's letter to telemarketers and could not comment on it specifically. However, fee structures designed by states for purchasing DNC lists has led some to wonder whether the states are more concerned about generating revenue than preventing telemarketing calls to those who do not want them.
“I think it's a logical question,” Brosnahan said. “States are probably trying to cover costs [of maintaining DNC lists]. But what other costs are they trying to cover?”