Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Telemarketing bill gets House panel approval

It adds to Senate crackdown version

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT, Ky. — A third, significantly more expansive version of a bill to crack down on telephone solicitors was approved by a House committee Tuesday.

        Working from a Senate-passed bill, the Labor and Industry Committee added its own touches.

        There would be no age limit. Anyone's name could be placed on a “no call” or more restrictive “zero call” list maintained by the attorney general. The Senate bill applied to people over 70.

        The committee's substitute bill went beyond phone calls to deal also with junk mail — deceptive sweepstakes, specifically. A willful violation would be a Class D felony.

        If passed by the full House, the bill would have to go back to the Senate for concurrence in the changes.

        The sponsor, Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington, said she had not seen the substitute bill in advance and was caught off guard by the deceptive-sweepstakes provision.

        But Ms. Kerr said she thought there was a chance the Senate would go along. “Sentiment on the Senate floor was that we need to get something out this session,” she said.

        The House previously passed a telemarketing bill, which remains pending in the Senate. The House bill's sponsor, Rep. Buddy Buckingham, also wrote most of the substitute bill. The sweepstakes section was inserted by Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington.

        Mr. Buckingham, D-Murray, said the substitute bill also made an important change by delaying implementation of a no-exceptions “zero call” list until July 1, 2002.

        He said the attorney general needs time to work out some problematic details, such as how a zero-call list would be made available to business owners and not overly expensive, considering that it would have to be regularly updated.

        Mr. Buckingham also acknowledged that a merchant could unwittingly violate the law in calling a local customer whose name was on the zero-call list.

        The no-call list makes numerous exceptions for local merchants, real-estate agents, nonprofit fund-raisers and the like.

        The deceptive-sweepstakes provisions would require mailed promotions to bear conspicuous disclaimers in larger-than-usual type. It would be illegal to state or imply that a prize entry had to be accompanied by any payment or that a purchase would enhance the recipient's chances.


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