Two More States Join Ranks With DNC Lists

Tennessee and Alabama have passed legislation creating their own Do-Not-Call lists, bringing to eight the states requiring telemarketers to subscribe and comply with such lists. Of course, this is in addition to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Telemarketing Sale Rule and any required trade organization lists.

Of the two, Tennessee’s is the more burdensome. House Bill 677 requires the Tennessee regulatory authority to establish no later than July 1 of 2000 a database of residential subscribers who do not wish to receive telephone solicitations. The law empowers the regulatory authority to establish regulations which require local telephone companies to notify consumers twice a year of the database; specify procedure for signing onto the list; specify how long each request will be effective; and specify how companies can subscribe to the database.

The law sets the fee for companies to access the list at $500 a year but does not mention a fee for consumers to sign up for the list. It also sets penalties at a maximum of $2,000 per violation to “be calculated in a liberal manner to deter violators and to protect consumers.” The law does provide a defense for companies which make a good faith effort to comply.

The only exemption in the law is for businesses making fewer than three calls per week. Almost every business making consumer calls will therefore need to subscribe to the list.

The Tennessee law establishes a curfew for calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. and prohibits telemarketers from knowingly blocking consumers’ caller identification devices.

The Alabama law, H.B. 589, contains very similar language to the Tennessee law, but is much more limited in application. The Alabama legislature chose to add the new law to its existing telemarketing registration law which contains all the common exemptions to registration found in many states, such as regulated utilities, certain telephone services bureaus, licensed financial institutions etc.

The Act directs the Public Service Commission to establish a state database of residential consumers who object to receiving commercial telephone solicitation. The law sets the fee to sign up for the list at $5 every two years, and the fee to purchase the list at $10 per year. Although violators may be fined up to $200 per violation, the application of the list to most telemarketers is limited.

All told, compliance with the 8 states’ laws will cost a company more than $2,000 per year plus implementation costs. These costs do not include compliance with the TCPA either.

If no action is taken in court, companies should expect more of these lists in the future.

Finally, two nonprofit groups have challenged a new disclosure requirement in federal court in Indiana applicable to telephone fundraising for nonprofits. The law called for a lengthy list of disclosures to be made at the beginning of each call and did not specify if the solicitor could even greet the resident prior to beginning the disclosure.

Although a nonprofit speech case, the telemarketing industry could benefit from a victory in this case based on the timing provisions found in many “immediate disconnect” statutes. The judge in the case is has just issued preliminary injunction which prevents enforcement of the act. Both sides will now prepare final briefs to be filed in the coming months.

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