Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Telemarketers getting the message

A third of Kentuckians say don't call us

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

        Kentucky's “no-call” telemarketing law began Monday and officials say businesses might not like it, but they've accepted it. Average Kentuckians though, are thrilled, and they're signing up in droves. Nearly a third of the state's 1.8 million phone numbers are already on the “no call” list.

        Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton signed one of the nation's toughest telemarketing laws in March. People on the no-call list are not supposed to receive calls from telemarketers with three exceptions: businesses collecting debts, charities seeking donations and businesses with whom they have a prior or existing relationship.

        “We monitored this legislation during the session,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

  If a telemarketer calls someone on the Kentucky “no-call” list, that person should get the telemarketer's name, the company name, phone number and where they are calling from (or at least as much of that as possible). Then report the call to the Kentucky Attorney General's Office, which maintains the no-call list. Call 1-(866) 877-STOP or go to www.kycall0.com to file a complaint.
  Numbers can be added to the next no-call list update (effective Oct.15) by calling 1-(866)-kycall0 or going to www.kycall0.com by Aug. 15. The list is updated every three months.
        “We have no objections from our membership at this point in time. I think the public is happy with the legislation and the businesses will learn to live with it.”

        Mr. Toebben couldn't think of any Northern Kentucky business that survives solely because of telemarketing. However, some businesses, such as carpet cleaners and lawn service agencies, do use cold calling to boost sales.

        “In most cases, businesses will turn to other forms of communication with the customer,” said Mr. Toebben. “They could go to door-to-door, direct mailing or niche advertising. Door-to-door is pretty labor intense. It would be a pretty unique business that would go (from telemarketing to) door-to-door.”

        Gay Dwyer, vice president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, said she also followed the legislation closely. She watched to make sure the law wouldn't keep retailers from informing customers of sales or that a prescription refill is due.

        “The majority of calls retailers make are to people they have an existing relationship with,” said Ms. Dwyer.

        “There's not a lot of cold-calling from merchants. Generally speaking, the members of the Retail Federation do not want to call people who don't want to be called.”

        She does think merchants should be able to call someone to offer a bid on something the merchant knows the person needs.

        For example, if someone is building a deck, Ms. Dwyer said a local lumberyard should be able to call and offer a bid, but the new law does not allow that if the person is on the “no-call list.”

        Denise Wilde, a stay-at-home-mom in Hebron, is glad the law prohibits people from calling to offer bids.

        “If I want their product, I'll call them and ask for a bid,” she said.

        Ms. Wilde missed the May 15 no-call signup deadline to be on the list that went into effect Monday but will be on the updated list being released Oct. 15, she said.

        “I'm tired of the phone calls,” she said. “It's irritating.

        “I'm absolutely thrilled (about the law). If I get a call, I'm going to report them.”

        “We need some information about the telemarketing company - name, phone number, city - that's calling,” said Barbara Hadley Smith, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

        The “no-call” list was widely promoted by Attorney General Ben Chandler, the grandson of former Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler and a 2003 gubernatorial hopeful himself. Mr. Chandler toured the state promoting the list, as part of his attorney general's consumer protection programming.

        “We want to empower everyone on the list to become telemarketing sleuths,” he said. How effective this law is depends on people reporting information and providing us with information.”

        The state had a previous telemarketing law in place for four years but it didn't prevent many calls.

        “There were so many exemptions the law was useless,” Ms. Hadley Smith said.

        Ohio does not have a no-call law on its books, but Ohio residents can sign up with national no-call agencies. Indiana's no-call law was just upheld as constitutional in state courts there.

        Mr. Toebben and Ms. Dwyer said their organizations are helping businesses with the transition and are answering questions about the law.

        All businesses that use telemarketing tactics in Kentucky are required to register with the Attorney General's Office. Once they register, they receive the no-call list on disk, hard copy or by downloading it. Th e business is not permitted to give the no-call list to anyone else.

        “We held meetings with groups explaining the law and how it's going to work,” said Ms. Hadley Smith.

        She said businesses that violate the law will probably get a friendly reminder first but will face a $5,000 fine per violation after that. Violators could face up to five years in jail for violating the law three timesin one year.

        Ms. Hadley Smith said there are 1.8 million residential phone numbers in the state and more than 610,000 numbers are already on the July 15 no-call list, with more than 40,000 people already signed up to be added to the list on Oct. 15.

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